Tag Archives: Avant-Garde Music

ALVIN LUCIER :: MUSIC ON A LONG THIN WIRE, 1980

In Alvin Lucier’s own words (1992): “Music on a Long Thin Wire is constructed as follows: the wire is extended across a large room, clamped to tables at both ends. The ends of the wire are connected to the loudspeaker terminals of a power amplifier placed under one of the tables. A sine wave oscillator is connected to the amplifier. A magnet straddles the wire at one end. Wooden bridges are inserted under the wire at both ends to which contact microphones are imbedded, routed to a stereo sound system. The microphones pick up the vibrations that the wire imparts to the bridges and are sent through the playback system. By varying the frequency and loudness of the oscillator, a rich variety of slides, frequency shifts, audible beats and other sonic phenomena may be produced.” Continue reading ALVIN LUCIER :: MUSIC ON A LONG THIN WIRE, 1980

Advertisements

GIACINTO SCELSI :: ANAHIT, for violin & 18 instruments

Scelsi subtitled this splendid work “Lyrical Poem on the Name of Venus,” “Anahit” being the ancient Egyptian name for the goddess Venus. The piece is a major work of Scelsi’s and among the most important works of the 1960s. It is basically a chamber-sized violin concerto, although the relationship of the soloist to the ensemble is anything but the one expected in a concerto. Instead of a dialogue between orchestra and soloist, every instrument is washed into an ever-shifting, incandescent color field. Each instrumental part is extremely difficult, the violin part is only more so because it plays through more of the 13-minute duration of the piece than the rest. Making the soloist’s life still more difficult, the instrument is re-tuned to G-G-B-D to give it a more intense and ethereally plaintive sound. Scelsi also notated the violin part in a special tablature, string by string, treating each string as a separate sound-making entity. Conversely, the entire ensemble is treated like a single instrument that Scelsi plays upon like some heavenly synthesizer. Throughout the piece, he has the violin tensely slide about in microtones, moving along a gradually ascending path, and nothing more. This severe restriction of material means that tremendous concentration is required of he soloist and the terrific tension involved in just holding on to the part comes through in performance. Around this core of diamond-thread, Scelsi pours the tremendous oceanic noise of the rest of the ensemble. The “solo” violin is quite often submerged in the sound, disappearing with the rest of the instrumental voices into the slow, wide-angle shriek of changing sound. Frequent cadential effects, usually underlined with orchestrational changes like an outburst of brass or shrill statements from the flutes, provide a sense of ebb and flow and a tasteful degree of formal definition. At around the eight-minute mark, there is a cadenza for violin solo that slyly creeps in while the supporting instruments gradually evaporate, a process that is repeated less fully in the very last passage. Anahit develops itself with an ascetic’s patience and doesn’t ever arrive at any kind of explosive climax. Instead, it hovers on the tentative edge of crisis, like a photograph of something hateful endlessly developing, out of which no clear image ever emerges. The pseudoscientific word “liminal” comes to mind: of or relating to a sensory threshold, barely perceptible, on the cusp of response. The beautiful tension of Anahit is partly the tension of a half-formed premonition and similar to the tension of having a lost word “on the tip of the tongue,” that slightly panicked mental grasping for something sensed and present, but unreachable. Unlike almost all of Scelsi’s music, some of which was not performed publicly until 30 years after its creation, Anahit was performed with Devy Erlih on violin a year after it was composed.  -DONATO MANCINI

 

CORNELIUS CARDEW :: TREATISE, performed by the Cardew Trio, maskfest, 1.12.2010

Treatise is a musical composition by British composer Cornelius Cardew (1936-1981). Treatise is a graphic musical score comprising 193 pages of lines, symbols, and various geometric or abstract shapes that eschew conventional musical notation. Implicit in the title is a reference to the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein, which was of particular inspiration to Cardew in composing the work. The score neither contains nor is accompanied by any explicit instruction to the performers in how to perform the work. Cardew worked on the composition from 1963 to 1967. Continue reading CORNELIUS CARDEW :: TREATISE, performed by the Cardew Trio, maskfest, 1.12.2010

HARRY PARTCH:: DELUSION OF THE FURY, original filmed performance, 1969, 72 min.

Delusion of the Fury: A Ritual of Dream and Delusion, A Film by MadelineTourtelot, Recorded at UCLA Playhouse 1969. Conducted by Danlee Mitchell, musician assembly Emil Richards.

Delusion of the Fury is a stage play by the American composer Harry Partch. The first draft for a new theater work for singers, mimes, dancers, and musicians, Cry from Another Darkness, was completed by Partch on December 30, 1964, and the second draft, dated January 17, 1965, was a fuller, longer, re-titled Delusion of the Fury. The work was originally conceived as a play in two acts, with a dramatic first act and a comedic second. Partch completed writing of the music on March 17, 1966. The piece employs Partch’s original system of micro-tonality, and was written for the largest assembly of his custom-made instruments used in any of his works. The instruments were an important part of the stage set.[2] Delusion of the Fury was premiered at the UCLA Playhouse on January 9, 1969, where it was recorded for Columbia Records. This remained the only performance of the piece until it was re-staged in 2007 by the Japan Society in New York. In 2013 the piece was staged for the first time in Europe at Ruhrtriennale by Ensemble MusikFabrik under the direction of Heiner Goebbels.This production toured to the Edinburgh International Festival in 2014. It received another performance in Paris as part of IRCAM’s ManiFeste festival in the Grande Salle of La Villette on June 18, 2016. -wikipedia

Continue reading HARRY PARTCH:: DELUSION OF THE FURY, original filmed performance, 1969, 72 min.

NOTATIONS :: A Book by John Cage, with Alison Knowles, 1969

 

In 1969, composer John Cage compiled and edited, with Alison Knowles, Notations, a book containing the graphical musical scores of 269 composers.

‘The book is made up of a large collection of graphical scoresfacsimiles of holographs, from the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts, with text by 269 composers, which are presented in alphabetical order, with each score allotted equal space, and in which the editor has no more authority than the reader in assigning value to the work.[3] The book includes the manuscript for the Beatles song “The Word” (song lyrics, but no musical notation) from the Rubber Soul album (1965). Continue reading NOTATIONS :: A Book by John Cage, with Alison Knowles, 1969

Steve Reich :: It’s Gonna Rain

On January 27, 1965, composer Steve Reich premiered his piece It’s Gonna Rain in San Francisco. The piece consists of the manipulation of a taped recording of Brother Walter, a charismatic Pentecostal preacher in Union Square.  Brother Walter’s fire and brimstone sermon begins to mutate into echoes of itself forming a constantly changing, pulsing canon made of human speech woven into an interlocking rhythm.  Continue reading Steve Reich :: It’s Gonna Rain