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Novara (1962)



Earle Brown

NOVARA (1962)

Directions for Performance Score (transposed) Instrumentation

PRELIMINARY NOTES Spontaneous decisions in the performance of a work and the possibility of the composed elements being


“mobile” have been of primary interest to me for

Bass Clarinet

some time; the former to an extreme degree in FOLIO

Trumpet in Bb

(1952), and the latter, most explicitly, in TWENTY FIVE


PAGES (1953). For me, the concept of the elements

2 Violins

being mobile was inspired by the mobiles of Alexander


Calder, in which, similar to this work, there are basic


units subject to innumerable different relationships or forms. The concept of the work being conducted and

Duration: 6-12 minutes

formed spontaneously in performance was originally inspired by the “action-painting” techniques and

The conductor needs an arrow indicator with

works of Jackson Pollock in the late 1940s, in which

numbers 1 – 4 (provided with score) to show

the immediacy and directness of “contact” with the

the musicians which page to perform from.

material is of great importance and produces such an intensity in the working and in the result. The performance conditions of these works are similar to a painter working spontaneously with a given palette.

The conductor may conduct the events in any sequence or juxtaposition, in changing tempi, loudness and in general mold and form the piece. The inherent flexibility of the materials allows the work to constantly transform itself and re-express its potential, while the sound materials and characteristics which I have composed contain the essential “identity” which makes this work different from any other.

I have felt that the conditions of spontaneity and mobility of elements which I have been working with create a more urgent and intense “communication” throughout the

entire process, from composing to the final realization

development of the work in FOLIO (1952 and 1953) and

of a work. I prefer that each “final form,” which each

most clearly represents sound-relationships in the score

performance necessarily produces, be a collaborative

as I wish them to exist in performance, independent of a

adventure, and that the work and its conditions of human

strict pulse or metric system.

involvement remain a “living” potential of engagement. It is a “time-notation” (now generally called “proportional Score and Structure

notation”) in that the performer’s relationship to the

The conductor may begin a performance with any event

score, and the actual sound in performance, is realized

on any page and may proceed from any page to any

in terms of the performer’s time-sense perception of the

other page at any time, with or without repetitions or

relationships defined by the score and not in terms of

omissions of pages or events, remaining on any page

a rational metric system of additive units. The durations

or event as long as he wishes.

are extended visibly through their complete space-time of sounding and are precise relative to the space-time of

The numbers of the score pages to be played from are

the score. It is expected that the performers will observe

indicated to the musicians by a movable arrow on a

as closely as possible the “apparent” relationships of

placard displaying the page numbers 1 to 4 — the number

sound and silence but act without hesitation on the basis

and arrow being clearly visible to all members of the group,

of their perceptions.

and the arrow comfortably within reach of the conductor. It must be understood that the performance is not It is suggested that the podium be wide enough (or that

expected to be a precise translation of the spatial

enough music stands be used as a podium) for all four

relationships but a relative and more spontaneous

score pages to fit next to one another so as to be visible

realization through the involvement of the performers’

to the conductor at all times during the performance. (In

subtly changing perceptions of the spatial relationships.

the parts, all of the events on all of the pages are visible

The resulting flexibility and natural deviations from the

to the musicians without the necessity of page turns.)

precise indications in the score are acceptable and in fact integral to the nature of the work. The result is the

Time Notation

accurate expression of the actions of people when

There is a built-in factor of flexibility in the notation and

accuracy is not demanded but “conditioned” as a function

scoring of this piece because the availability of forms is

within a human process.

based on letting go of the idea of metric accuracy. This is achieved through the notational system used in this work. This system, which I have called a “time-notation,” is a


(event plus event), sequences, dynamics, and tempos,

The conducting technique is basically one of cueing; the

spontaneously created during the performance. All

notation precludes the necessity and function of “beat”

events are always prepared by a left-hand signal and

in the usual sense (although the conductor does indicate

initiated by a down-beat from the conductor; the size

the relative tempo). The page which contains the event

and rapidity of the down-beat implies the loudness

to be played is indicated by the arrow, as previously

and speed with which the event is to be performed.

explained. The number of the event to be performed is

The conductor must, as with any notation, insist on

indicated by the left hand of the conductor — one to five

accurately articulated relationships from the rhythmic

fingers. A conventional (right-hand) down-beat initiates

“shape” of phrase and pitch sequences in this work.

the activity. The relative speed and dynamic intensity with which an event is to be performed is implied by the

General Modifications of Events

speed and largeness of the down-beat as given with

con d ucte d fe r mata :

the right hand. Nearly all of the events in the score have

fermata at any time during the performance, in any single

been assigned dynamic values. These are acoustically

event or combination of events. Both hands cupped

accurate in terms of instrumental and ensemble

towards the orchestra and held stationary indicates that

sonority and balance and must be respected as written,

all musicians in that group should hold the sound or

although the conductor may “over-ride” the indicated

silence which they are at that moment performing, until

dynamic values and raise or lower the over-all loudness.

the next sign from the conductor tells them either to cut

the conductor may introduce a

off or to continue from the point of interruption. A cut-off The “graphic” notations as in events 4 and 5 on page

is signaled with both hands and must be followed by

3 are a generalized way of indicating instrumental

another event-signal from the left hand and a down-

activity and non-characteristic sounds. Observe very

beat. To continue, the conductor moves both hands from

carefully the character and rhythm of the graphics, the

the “hold” position back to the body and then outward

verbal indication of technique of articulations, and the

towards the orchestra, palms up (as if giving the initiative

approximate frequencies covered by the rise and fall

back to the orchestra).

of the graphic line. All sounds are basically delicate and microtonal.

con d ucte d stop :

the conductor may stop any event

or combination of events at any time during the The conception of the work is that the score presents

performance. The normal, two-hand cut-off signal will

specific material having different characteristics,

silence his entire group. Leaving the hands up will hold

and that this material is subject to many inherent

that silence until the signal to continue from the point

modifications, such as modifications of combinations

of interruption is given. If the hands do not remain up

in “hold” position, the musicians are to expect another

impression derived from the score will be one of many

event-signal from the left hand, and a down-beat.

sporadic fragments. This wealth of fragments shows the numerous formal possibilities inherent in the work,

mod i fication of s i ng le eve nt :

any two-hand cut-off

signal affects the entire group. The conductor may wish,

and it is this realization, not the fragmentations, that must become the dominant characteristic of performance.

however, to modify only one event among two or more events being performed simultaneously. To do this he


signals the number of the event to be modified with his

All indications of dynamics are relative to the

left hand; then indicates the modification — a hold or

instrumental technique and register of the particular

cut-off — with only his right hand. (Events not indicated

sound called for, i.e., a string sound to be played

by the fingers of the conductor’s left hand continue

col legno tratto, sul ponticello, with a dynamic of ffff,

to proceed normally.) It is absolutely essential that the

must be played as loudly as possible regardless of

orchestra members clearly understand this difference

the dynamic intensity produced by the same dynamic

in signaling: a hold or cut-off by both hands affects an

marking in an instrument of a different nature. Thus, a

entire group; a hold or cut-off by only the right hand

low C in the Flute marked ffff is not expected to have

affects only the event indicated by the fingers of the left

the same volume as a middle-register tone marked

hand. Players whose parts do not contain events signaled

ffff in a clarinet. This simply means that the flutist is

by the conductor’s left hand must remain unaffected by

to play his tones at the maximum volume available in

his subsequent right-hand indications.

that register of his instrument. The pppp indicates that the sound is to be as soft as possible. All dynamic

As soon as the conductor initiates (by left-hand event-

indications are “balanced” in this way, relative to their

signal and right-hand down-beat) a new event that

acoustic functions within the event-structures and the

appears on the player’s part, the preceding event is

characteristics of the instruments employed in them.

automatically cancelled. No specific stop-signal is required. The player simply discontinues the event he


is playing and, without break between events, begins to

Comments and Suggestions to the Conductor:

play the new one.

Page 1, event 1: Best rather legato and moderately fast or fast tempo.

With these procedures clearly understood by the conductor and the musicians it is possible to achieve smooth transitions and long lines of connected material of extreme complexity and frequent modification. The first

2: Highly percussive. Equal balance between violin and piano; any tempo.

3: Highly articulate, “string trio

character;” elegant, legato and

instruments, producing no tone;

percussive; any tempo.

changing to percussive wind and key/

4: Staccato-percussive “loop”

valve slap. Follow rise and fall and

(repeating texture).

4: Wind sound only, through the

rhythm of graphics as much as possible.

5: S omewhat more legato, “loop”

(not a repeating “loop” texture).

(repeating texture). Vary tempi and loudness, with stops, starts, bursts, etc.

5: V  ln. 2 and viola, using all 4 strings on “wrong” side of bridge; a kind

Page 2, event 1: All instruments very legato, “soft”

of “nervous,” semi-tremolo effect;

articulation. Instruments equally

following rhythm and approximate pitch

balanced dynamically as a “single

of graphics.

sound” of 8 “loops.” As the loops continue the instruments get “out

Page 4, event 1: A  rather “loose,” semi-articulate,

of sync” and automatically re-align

“noisy” trio. Improvisatory sounding but

into different vertical sonorities.

following timbre, rhythm and graphic

Introduce fermata, stops, starts,


vary tempi and loudness, etc. “Warm” ensemble textures.

2: A five instrument, random rhythm, chordal effect; as resonant as possible.

2: Percussive and staccato “pyramid.”

Musicians acting and reacting freely in a kind of “conversational” style, but

3: Basically quiet, legato “pyramid.” In

“looping” in the given sequences of

first rehearsals of events 2 & 3, give


musicians each entrance until they learn their relative (not exact) entrance

3: A  tight tone cluster with different

positions (pizz. entrances in 3 are

rates of speed of movement

slightly staggered, not simultaneous).

within it…looping (introduce fermata, speed up, slow down,

Page 3, events 1, 2 & 3: Three different “chords.”

1 & 3: The timbre transforms during

stops, dynamic changes, etc.).

4: A quiet sound.

5: A duet.

the sounding.

2:“Pure” sound.


A Sample Continuity and the Results of Juxtaposition:

After considerable rehearsal, sufficient for the musicians to

Page 2: Event 1 is started and allowed to “loop” for some

feel secure in their flexible but very accurate relationships

seconds by itself. Conductor indicates 4 with left hand

to one another in each event as they appear on the pages

(preparing pianist) then gives down-beat with right hand;

of the score, it is possible for the conductor to use some of

pianist plays event 4 and other musicians continue to loop

the individual lines of the events as solos. For example, in

event 1; conductor then indicates 5 with left hand (preparing

event 5 of page 3, after the string quartet can perform the

violins 1 and 2), then gives right hand down-beat for event

event very accurately as a four-part quartet event (as in the

5 to begin; the three winds and viola and cello continue to

score but slightly different each time in vertical alignments

loop in event 1 while violins 1 and 2 play the duet of event

as is natural in the non-metric notation) the conductor

5: violins 1 and 2 reach the last sounds of event 5 and hold

may use one or more of the lines as solos or in other than

(fermata); other instruments with the exception of piano

scored juxtapositions. For the “as written” quartet event

(having finished the non-repeating 4) continue event 1;

the conductor signals 5 with his left hand to the 4 string

conductor adds event 2 (preparing as before) and piano

players as a group (sweeping the signal in front of all 4).

and 3 winds play event 2, winds arriving at the fermata on

For only one of the lines as a solo the conductor indicates

their last notes: we now have violins 1 and 2 and the three

5 with the left hand and points directly at the soloist with

winds sustaining (winds breathing when necessary and

the right hand, before making the down-beat with that

re-attacking the notes), the piano silent, and only the viola

hand. The four lines can thus be performed one after the

and cello still “looping” in event 1. The conductor adds event

other or, for example, the following kind of overlapping:

3, on the down-beat of which violins 1 and 2 automatically leave the fermata of event 5 and perform event 3 as written,

(there is finally no one any longer on event 1) ending with

Violin 1

Violin 2


the four-note fermata. We now have the 3 winds and the 4 strings holding their respective notes (a sustained chord,


in effect); the conductor adds the piano event 4 over the chord; while pianist performs event 4, the conductor

Likewise, the 1st violin part of event 5 could be

moves the page indicator-arrow to indicate whatever next

superimposed on only the flute line of event 4, etc., as

page he wishes, prepares with his left hand the event he

obviously the entire trio of 4 and the quartet of 5 could

wishes on that page, and on the right hand down-beat,

be performed simultaneously. This possibility considerably

that event will begin. Whatever instruments are not in

expands the formal potentials of any performance but

that next event on the next indicated page will continue

I insist that the formal integrity of the events as they

to sustain their previous notes until specifically cut off or

are scored be maintained for the most part. The events,

are given an event that they must play on the new page.

as scored, give the work a strong identity as NOVARA and the individual lines as solos should be used only as

In all of this long sequence there has been a continuous

variations on the identifiable events, as scored.

stream of sound.

Program Notes NOVARA was composed, at the request of Lukas Foss,

for a Fromm concert at the Tanglewood Festival in the summer of 1962, and the first performance was conducted there by the composer. The work was written just after the composing and Venice premiere of AVAILABLE FORMS II (for 98 instruments and two conductors), and is a kind of “relaxing” into the intimacy and delicacy of chamber music and soloistic possibilities after the very large resources and massed orchestral sounds of that work. NOVARA is an “open-form” work and uses many of the less characteristic sounds of the instruments that are sometimes referred to as “noises” but are nevertheless instrumental sounds which can extend the formal and expressive potential of the work. “Open-form” means that all of the sound materials in the work are notated and controlled in the score but that their sequence, juxtaposition, tempi and repetition are left to the spontaneous (during the performance) decisions of the conductor as the performing process develops and unfolds between himself, the sound materials and the musicians. The form of the work is therefore unique in each performance but it is always NOVARA because only those composed sound events may be used.

Earle Brown

novara (1962)

Litolff/Peters Nr. 11139

Earle Brown (1926–2002)

© 2007 by Henry Litolff ’s Verlag

Earle Brown: Novara (1962)  

for Flute, Bass Clarinet, Trumpet in Bb, Piano, 2 Violins, Viola and Violoncello Duration: 6-12 minutes

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