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TIMES FIVE for five instruments (1963)



Earle Brown

TIMES FIVE (1963) Commissioned by Service de la Recherche de l’ORTF, Paris

Preliminary Notes

Structure and Content of the Work

Not being overly charmed by purely electronic sounds

There are five basic sections of the work and within each


or by the environmental “concrete” sounds for which the

section the conductor is free to combine and juxtapose


French Radio Studio is best known, I took this commission

the written instrumental materials in spontaneous


as an opportunity to multiply and transform more or less

relation to the tape, varying the live textures, densities


“normal” instrumental and vocal sound sources. The title

and tempi. The tape is an unchanging “ground” upon


refers to this process of multiplying a given potential

which the live material is superimposed — spontaneously

through superimposing and accelerating recorded material

and differently in each performance, yet maintaining


on tape, as well as to the fact that the work is produced

the basic shape and character that I have designed.

As of 2010, the Stereo A-Tape and Stereo B-Tape used at

(in concert) from five sound sources in the shape of an

the creation of this work have been replaced with four

X at the front of the auditorium — four loudspeakers with

The sound material on the tape is either instrumentally or

digital sound files named A-left, A-right, B-left and B-right

a live group at the center point. The taped material is

vocally produced (with one exception) and usually modified

(included with an additional score for the sound engineer)

“choreographed” to move between and across this space

only slightly in regard to speed (frequency), timbre, etc. There

as a kind of kinetic wall of sound.

is the intention, which the conductor should keep in mind,

Score Instrumentation

to allow an ambiguity as to the origin of sound details to

System requirements:

PC or Apple computer

I first composed material for an eleven-piece orchestra,

exist between the visible live group of instruments and the

Four-channel audio interface

recorded it and used it as a “reservoir” from which to

four channels of tape, within the total sound resulting from

A program capable of playing four separate channels

combine, transform and form, manipulating it in the

the combination — that is, from the listener’s point of view

Four loudspeakers (see Technical Preparations)

studio much as a sculptor molds and forms clay. Much

it will always sound orchestral but always rather “impossible”

of the material in the first and third sections I improvised

relative to the five instruments which he sees on stage.

The conductor needs:

myself, on piano, celeste, harp, bass, vibraphone,

An arrow indicator with numbers 1-4 (provided with score)

marimba, etc. (One of the virtues of “tape pieces” is that

The first section of the work is primarily a play of microtonal

to show the musicians which page to perform from

the composer himself can be in direct and personal

frequencies around F sharp, with some harp and double-

contact with the sounds he wants, rather than having

bass figurations speeded up to approximately guitar and

to send obscure graphic messages to instrumentalists.)

cello ranges, on the tape.

I have used many of the small “noisy” sounds that

A stop watch (not provided with score)

are nearly impossible to get by “scoring” them but

The second section is variations of density and

have also drawn them graphically in the live score

frequency fields throughout the available instrumental

in order to try to provoke a delicate and spontaneous

range as “washes” of texture and color.

“cross talk” between the live and taped elements. Duration: 15’17”

Directions for Performance The third section is primarily “noisy” (inarticulate sounds) —

The conductor should become familiar with the

or individual cues by pointing at each musician, but

very delicate, uncharacteristic instrumental sounds.

character of each of the taped sections but not attempt

must also indicate with the left hand the specific event

to notate or memorize the tape continuity. A stop-

(1 to 5) which he wishes the musicians to perform on

The fourth section, in the live material, is basically

watch should be used to coordinate the changes from

the down-beat; the pointing and the left-hand number

“musical” (articulate) in character and should be performed

section to section and to generally follow the density

are a preparation. With different events the down-beats

to the full effect of musical phrasing and sound.

and activity suggestions attached to the conductor’s

may also be individual or collective, that is, in section

score. A placard with the numbers 1 to 4 and a movable

3: violin event 1, cello event 2, and a single down-beat

The fifth section is rather energetic and percussive on the

arrow (provided with the material) indicate to the

will produce those sounds simultaneously — or they

tape. The combination of live materials from sections 3 and

musicians which section is being conducted from.

can be introduced in any sequence or combination the conductor wishes by individual down-beats.

4 will juxtapose articulate and inarticulate sound material as possible commentary to the tape.

In sections 1 and 2 of the instrumental material the conductor may make a general orchestral downbeat

Preparations and down-beats must be very clear and

to which all the five instrumentalists will respond

precise and rehearsed until they can be given and

simultaneously, or he may cue one or more instruments

executed as quickly as desired. The events in sections 3

individually depending upon the texture and timbre he

and 4 are to be played only once on each cue from the

wishes to add to the tape events at that moment. The

conductor (non da capo) but the conductor can ask for

conductor may interrupt the playing of the instrumental

them any number of times.

material at any moment with individual or collective cut-offs — on the next entrance cue the musician(s)

In all sections the conductor can produce staccato “chords”

will begin with the next note in the part. The materials

by a chopping motion of the open right hand, or sustained

in sections 1 and 2 are circular (da capo) and any

“chords” by a “hold” motion of both hands, at any time. (In

amount may be used at any time in those sections.

sections 3 and 4 the left hand must prepare which event is desired in these cases.)

In all sections: the conductor controls tempi and dynamics by the speed and size of his down-beat — as usual. In sections 3 and 4 of the instrumental material the conductor may also use a general ensemble down-beat

General Comments

Technical Preparations

It is imperative that a reliable set of ears listen to rehearsals

commentary, conversation with the tape. The tape is, or


and determine the proper volume settings of the tape

nearly is, self-sufficient and the conductor should feel no

The four loudspeakers are placed on stage: two of them

material; the relationship between live instruments and

anxiety about keeping the piece moving — it will move

between 8 and 12 feet above the stage [for sound files

taped sound must remain in the same acoustic “plane”

anyway. The tape functions as a kind of ground upon which

B-left and B-right], the other two at approximately stage

(equally balanced) from an average seat in the audience.

the live material is activated and played with.

level [for sound files A-left and A-right]. All four should be in the same vertical plane on opposite sides of the stage,

Special care must be taken in setting the volume for the

The work lasts 15’17” and the tape need not be stopped

first section: the natural volume of the taped material in this

during the course of performance.

far enough back to be clearly heard by the conductor.

section is right when sounding approximately pianissimo in

The five instruments are to be in the center as the fifth

the hall, or, just short of audible tape-hiss. This should serve

sound source.

as the correct level for the first two sections although minor adjustments may be necessary. I would suggest — subject

The volume produced by the loudspeakers must be

to experiments in rehearsal — that the level be raised two

carefully balanced so as to be no louder than the

to three decibels at the entrance of the wind sound at the

volume normally produced by the instruments in that

beginning of the third section (entrance of the orchestral

particular acoustic situation. A wall of sound is the

glissandi: at approximately eleven minutes), but, I repeat,

intention — a vertical plane facing the audience.

the tape must never generally overpower the live group. 2. Use of the tape The conductor’s relationship to the tape — beyond the

There is no stopping of the tape between the beginning

fact that he is in the right section at approximately the

and end of the work. There are five structural sections

right time — is one of spontaneous reaction, collaboration,

of taped material; the following timings are approximate and relative to the juxtaposition of the live material (see suggestions below): Section 1

0” — 4’10”

Section 2

4’10” — 6’45”

Section 3

6’45” — 9’15"

Section 4

9’15” — 11’10”

Section 5

11’10” — 15’17”

There are four sections of written instrumental material,

Instruments IN at 5’30”

plus a fifth section which is the combination-possibilities

All combinations active

OUT at 6’40”

technique of articulations and the approximate frequencies covered by the rise and fall of the graph line. All sounds are basically delicate, rambling and microtonal.

of sections 3 and 4. Section 3


Instruments IN at 6’45” Spontaneous choice in reaction to tape

A suggested time scheme I would suggest the following relationships between the

OUT at 8’10”

taped and instrumental material as a basic structure for the work: entrances, exits and general character of

Instruments IN at 8’50”

the live material:

Harp T

— Near the table


— With the fingernail

T. P.

— O n the string, near the table, allowing the

As above

finger to slip off the string and strike the

OUT at 9’15”

table, as a drum. Striking the table is a function of the single action, not an action in itself.

Section 1

Section 4

Start the stop-watch on the first sound from the tapes.

Instruments IN at 9’30”

Instruments IN at 30”

One at a time, thin texture

slide and bend the string with the tuning key.

OUT at 11’00” Trombone

from 2’35” OUT at 3’00”

Instruments IN at 3’20”

As above

OUT at 1’20”

Instruments IN at 2’08” Thin texture, increase density

Key gliss. — S trike the string normally and immediately

Section 5

At the discretion of the conductor, to keep the trombone

Combinations of written material of sections 3 and 4

in the same volume plane as the other instruments, the cup

Instruments IN at 11’20”

mute may be used throughout the piece.

OUT at 14’50”

Tape will end at 15’17”

Earle Brown, 1963

Very light texture

Notes for the Players

OUT at 3’52”

All instruments in Section 3 Section 2

The graphic notations (

Instruments IN at 4’10” Very short ensemble

generalized and approximate way of indicating “non-

OUT at 4’40”

) are a very

figures, variations of

characteristic” sounds and actions from the instruments

dynamics and tempi

and musicians. Observe very carefully the character and rhythms of the graphics, the verbal indication of

times five (1963)

Earle Brown (1926–2002)


Litolff/Peters Nr. 11146

© 2007 by Henry Litolff ’s Verlag




Earle Brown: Times Five  

for five instruments - Rental Material

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