ISBN 978-88-905747-1-9 highSCORE Proceedings 2011 / editor Ingrid Pustijanac / translated by Ivan Fowler and Jeremy Vaughan ÂŠ highSCORE New Music Center 2012 www.highscorenewmusic.com Printed in Pavia, Italy
highSCORE Proceedings 2011
Editor Ingrid Pustijanac Translated by Ivan Fowler and Jeremy Vaughan
Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Editor’s Note . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
THE POETICS OF COMPOSITION “Being a Maximalist” Giya Kancheli and Amy Beth Kirsten Interview . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Composing with Consonance. Paul Glass lecture . . . . . . . . . . . .
Composing today Interview with composers of the 2011 highSCORE Festival Ingrid Pustijanac . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
THEORETICAL ASPECTS OF WRITING MUSIC The Good, the Bad and the Ugly? On Dangerous Liaisons between Opera, Current Affairs and Cinema Paolo Giorgi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The Organization of sound-space in Pause del silenzio (seven symphonic expressions) by Gian Francesco Malipiero Francesco Molmenti . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Milton Babbitt in memoriam Giovanni Albini . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
highSCORE Festival 2011 - People . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
highSCORE Special 2011 - People . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
highSCORE New Music Center - People . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
PREFACE Less than two years have passed since the foundation of the highSCORE New Music Center, and looking back over our work and trying to put it into perspective, a strong sense of pride and gratitude arises. Pride for the many activities we have organized and are organizing to foster the production of contemporary art music and to promote young talents in the field of composition. Looking backwards, our successes stand out: two editions of the highSCORE Festival; one highSCORE Special edition; and one season of the highSCORE Concert Series. During these events no less than sixty world première performances were given, and an album entitled Quintets, containing five pieces written by composers under the age of thirty-five for electric guitar and string quartet, was recorded. In addition, the Center has created videos, interviews, scores, essays, and articles, all of which are accessible on our web portal. At present, the third edition of the highSCORE Festival, a second album, Aftermath, is being recorded, and a new season of the highSCORE Concert Series is being organized, while the range of activities for the next trimester is being expanded. Gratitude, on the other hand, is owed to all those who have made this success possible. First and foremost, our executive director Paolo Fosso, whose creative approach to management and untiring dedication constantly allow our goals to take shape. A special thank-you goes to Christopher Theofanidis, an outstanding artist and teacher, who is one of the pillars of the highSCORE Festival. We would also like to thank Jeremy Vaughan, editor in chief of our web portal, for his precious insight into the world of contemporary art music, and Ingrid Pustijanac, our musicologist in residence and the editor of this volume, whose passion and hard work allow our efforts to be expressed in words. None of this could have happened without the generous contribution of Fondazione Cariplo, the hospitality provided both by the Conservatory of Pavia, Istituto Superiore di Studi Musicali “F. Vittadini”, by Fondazione Adolescere and by Campus Residence Pavia. We also wish to thank all of our artists, teachers, production assistants, and all those friends who attend, participate in, and contribute to our activities. Finally, the greatest thanks go to all of the composers who are selected each year to
participate in our events. Their enthusiasm, their passion, and their visionary music create priceless occasions of beauty. Giovanni Albini Artistic Director â€“ highSCORE New Music Center
EDITOR'S NOTE Over the course of the 2011 highSCORE Edition, a rich and diversified body of faculty members helped to expand on a series of arguments central to contemporary composition. The presence of the Guest of Honor Giya Kancheli, provided an invaluable opportunity to understand not only his music and perspective, but also granted the opportunity to confront more general issues that were raised during the brief interview with composer Amy Beth Kristen. Many of these issues were discussed during the several Composers' Colloquiums that were held each morning. Some of the observations that originated from these encounters can be found in Composing today - Interview with composers of the highSCORE Festival 2011, along with descriptions of each of the participating composers' unique musical perspective. The Special Guest was the Swiss-American composer Paul Glass. Glass drew attention to compositional techniques as linked to harmonic content in both tonal and atonal settings. He illustrated the compositional method which he has developed and applied in many of his works since the 1970s. With the permission of the author, in this volume we have included a written version of Paul Glass' rich lecture, entitled Composing with consonance. In his article The Organization of sound-space in Pause del silenzio (seven symphonic expressions) by Gian Francesco Malipiero, Francesco Molmenti, young guitarist and musicologist, explores the inherent questions raised when we look at harmonic content from both vertical and horizontal perspectives, using some of Gian Francesco Malipieroâ€™s works as a model. In his lectures, composer Christopher Theofanidis focused primarily on issues that arise when the theater finds itself in a contemporary context; for example in recent theatrical works such as The Refuge (2007) and Heart of a Soldier (2011). Theofanidis spoke of the importance of keeping the rich and long tradition of the theater alive while still valuing the possibility of interpretation of both the music and the libretto in a modern light. These themes can be found and are further discussed in the Interview with composers. In his essay The Good, the Bad and the Ugly? On Dangerous Liaisons between Opera, Current Affairs and Cinema, musicologist Paolo Giorgi takes a closer look at the particular questions raised by the relationship between libretto and contemporary themes from both past and present.
The central theme of American composer Amy Beth Kirsten's lecture was her long and intense experience with writing for voices: Ophelia Forever (2005) and The Haunting of Mr. Wolf (2009). This theme provoked continuous comparisons and reflections throughout the series of encounters dedicated to the individual musical thoughts of the participating composers. Elaborations on this can be found in a few sections of the Interview with composers. Finally, Ugo Nastrucci discussed specific themes pertaining to the relationship between modern lutherie and antique lutherie in contemporary music, and Mario Garuti lectured on different forms of musical tempo: topics that were explored in two essays in the 2010 edition, as well as the concept of organized sound introduced by the writer. These themes all represent a stimulating field of comparison. Traces of these papers have been conserved in the statements and comments on the works collected for the Interview with composers, in which the focus is on the presentation of the richness and variety of each composer's musical thoughts regarding contemporary composition. The volume comes to a close with a brief essay written by Giovanni Albini, Milton Babbitt in memoriam, which stands as a reminder to younger generations of the contribution made by this true pioneer of Contemporary Western Art Music. In closing, I would like to thank all of the participants for their stimulating discussions and for the enthusiasm with which they contributed to the realization of the 2011 highSCORE Edition. Ingrid Pustijanac Musicologist
THE POETICS OF COMPOSITION
“BEING A MAXIMALIST” GIYA KANCHELI AND AMY BETH KIRSTEN IN CONVERSATION As a Guest of Honor during the 2011 edition of highSCORE Festival, Georgia’s most distinguished living composer Giya Kancheli was presented to the young composers. Best-known as a composer of symphonies and other large-scale works, Giya Kancheli has written seven symphonies and a "liturgy" for viola and orchestra, Mourned by the Wind. His Fourth Symphony ("In Memoria di Michelangelo") received its American premiere with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Yury Temirkanov conducting, in January 1978, shortly before the cultural freeze in the United States against Soviet artists. 1 During his Lectures of the highSCORE Festival Kancheli spoke about his recent scores Diplipito for cello, counter-tenor, and chamber orchestra, Time... and Again for violin and piano (1997), Rokwa for large symphony orchestra (1999), and Styx for viola, mixed chorus and orchestra (1999). The composer introduced also his poetic ideas and, among other things, spoke about his experience writing music in the Soviet Union. Kancheli's compositional style owes much to his work in the theatre. For two decades he served as Music Director of the Rustaveli Theatre in Tbilisi. His opera, Music for the Living, which has won considerable praise in the former Soviet Union and Western Europe since its June 1984 premiere, was written in collaboration with the Rustaveli's director Robert Sturua. In December 1999 the original collaborators restaged the opera for the Deutsches National Theater in Weimar. American composer and highSCORE Faculty member Amy Beth Kirsten meets Giya Kancheli for a conversation.2 A.K.: It’s been a real pleasure to get to know you over the last couple of days and hear your music. And to see you in the context of all of these young authors makes me wonder what you were like as a student. G.K.: I also had a lot of pleasure coming here and communicating with the young composers, however I never had any pedagogical experience. 1
For more details about Giya Kancheli see Schirmer`s website: http://www.schirmer.com The present text is a transcription of the interview whose video excerpt is available on: http://www.highscorenewmusic.com
Generally, I very cautiously consider such meetings, as well as giving advise to young composers just because I don’t have any of the aforementioned pedagogical experience, thus I don’t think that I qualify to give advice to young composers. Perhaps I do not possess the skills of communication with the young generation. However, I would be extremely happy if one, two, or even three young composers will obtain some positive ideas from our meetings. A.K.: I think that definitely happened. G.K.: My pleasure. A.K.: When you were just starting to compose, when you were a student, how did you learn composition? Did you do score study? Or did you do writing exercises? How did you learn from the very beginning? G.K.: I think some people say that I have found my own niche in the art of composition and many people think I have found something special in my own art that is different from other composers. I will say a phrase that will make you confused:«If I have found something of my own, that’s the result of a bad education.» For example, when I was a student at the conservatory I studied such subjects as musical analysis and polyphony. If I can figuratively describe my experience, I would say that I really needed a pair of crutches to get through the course work. That’s why I was involved with self-education. But when I decided to enter the conservatory, the totalitarian state was in its full power. And the Iron Curtain that existed between the Soviet Union and the rest of the civilized world was impenetrable. The only thing that was available for the students of my generation was the music of Dmitri Shostakovich. However, I must say, not in it’s best performance. We had different LPs, however the first time I really heard the true Shostakovich was when I came to Moscow to hear Bernstein’s performance with the New York Philharmonic. Only then I heard the difference between the Shostakovich on Soviet LPs and the Shostakovich that Bernstein performed. The same thing can be said about Sergei Prokofiev, because early works of his were not performed during that time. So only then, I think, with selfeducation we were able to achieve certain levels of knowledge of the music that was written at the time and understand our own individual strengths and weaknesses.
I’m not sure how much people nowadays are aware of the term ‘Khrushchev’s Thaw’, but when such ‘thaw’ started only then did we start having some availability of information. Of course, that kind of information was received in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, however much later than in the rest of the Soviet Union, but it almost never came to Tbilisi, Baku or Erevan .The information was widening, slowly. I remember very well when Igor Blazhkov, a Ukrainian conductor, sent a set of tapes that were a mile long. It was very dangerous to send something like that at that time, however the tape had the entire opuses of Anton Webern. Only then did I realize listening to Webern’s music, that the timbral dramaturgy is a different sphere of contemporary music. A.K.: And how old were you when you had the chance to hear this? G.K.: I was about 24 or 25 or so. That’s when I started at the Geological University. Marina Yudina came to Tbilsi at that time. She played Bartók’s Piece for two pianos ad percussion. And for everyone of us she brought a score. So I received to the Bartók’s Miraculous Mandarin. Somebody got Stravinsky Symphony of Psalms. Someone received Hindemith’s Metamorphoses. You certainly couldn’t photocopy during that time. So we took the scores to photographers and we photographed every page. So the scores were very heavy. However we realized that besides Prokofiev and Shostakovich there was a whole different world of music. It is extremely difficult for people who grew up in the civilized world to realize how difficult the situation was in the Soviet Union. For example, until 1943 it was prohibited to perform Rachmaninov, because he immigrated to America. So Rachmaninov had to give a present to the Soviet Union before his music would be allowed for performance again. The present was a military tank! Since even Rachmaninov’s music was prohibited, the music of the New Viennese School or even the music of Mahler was most certainly banned. Even though Mahler was performed quite frequently in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, however after the early 1930s the performances had to stop. So when we discovered this ocean of different composers of the twentieth century, I had to draw certain priorities for myself. I think that my personality is that of a maximalist. Right away I refused to accept the music of Boulez, but I was very sympathetic to the music of Webern. So I understood that for the creation of a certain musical form and drama as well as other elements, music has to have a certain timbral dramaturgy. Such dramaturgy plays an extremely important role. You can
orchestrate a certain excerpt with a various timbral interests and the listener will like that but you may also orchestrate the same excerpt in a different way, in such a way, which will bring boredom to the listener. Of course one of the most important pieces for myself and for my colleagues was the Rite of Spring of Stravinsky. And today when I listen in a concert or recording of Rite Of Spring, I think there’s nothing better that was created in this world. But if I go to a concert where Verdi’s Requiem is performed and once the Requiem starts and I think «No one has written anything like that.» But when I listen to Bach’s Mass in b minor, how can you even imagine that anything more supreme can exist? But if I’m somewhere on the road and turn on the radio and hear Frescobaldi, and again I think it’s the best thing that exists in the world of music. And when so many beautiful things exist around you and if you have the impudence to write music, I think it’s a very heroic deed to do so. Because when you write your own music you have to neglect everything that I have just mentioned... Perhaps I’m not answering the question correctly. A.K.: No, I hope that I understand correctly. But I think that to me it’s amazing that you got to a point in your life where you were suddenly aware of all of these composers from the 20th-century. G.K.: Of course, I didn’t hear all of the composers at once. I heard them one by one over time and I didn’t have the knowledge of many important works while already having written major works myself. A.K.: Oh, of course, one at a time. But at the same time, you weren’t overwhelmed by this. I think that some people experience all of these things over time and can be overwhelmed by it, but it seems that you, as a maximalist, you were inspired by all of these possibilities. And I think that’s a very hopeful sentiment. I was just commenting. It wasn’t a question. I was confirming – trying to express that I think I understood what he was saying. G.K.: Everything that I said is because I think that every young person has to have his own priorities. Some things have to be very dear to a person, but some things should not attract him. Why am I attracted to the music of Ligeti, and absolutely I’m not attracted to the music of Boulez? Why am I so attracted to the music of Lutosławski, and almost I’m not interested in the music of Stockhausen. It is not because the music of
Stockhausen and the music of Boulez is bad or the music of Ligeti is so good, it is because that I just don’t understand it enough. My personal thinking goes together with Ligeti and others composers and it is absolutely normal. However there are many people who prefer the music of Stockhausen and Boulez to the music of Ligeti or Stravinsky. And it is absolutely normal. However the most important thing is that every young person has his own priorities. And it is extremely normal for everyone to have these priorities and for everyone to have their own tastes in music. I do not trust people that like composers of all epochs: Renaissance, Bach, Classicism, Early Romanticism, Late Romanticism, Impressionism, Serial techniques. People who like everything ... I simply don’t believe them. A.K.: Why does Jazz interest you so much? What draws you to Jazz? G.K.: Because when the Second World War ended I was ten years old and in two or three years we saw films on the Soviet television that were called ‘trophy films’. I think that Joseph Stalin, the father of all nations, made the huge mistake, because the foundation of the totalitarian state started to shake once the Swing came into existence. When all the young people saw the film with the music of Glenn Miller, they got excited with the Swing. And dissidence came later. And I was one of the people who liked this kind of music. We didn’t have any LPs, any information, we were only using the radio. And we were listening to Willis Conover’s show The Voice of America. I should mention that it was extremely difficult to listen to the show due to the colossal white noise that was coming out of the radio at the same time. And when we first got tape recorders, we recorded all of this music from the radio. And we copied it and gave it to each other. A.K.: That’s great! G.K.: Later on there was self-published musical literature. The same thing was happening among the people that liked Jazz. A.K.: So, like the Jazz charts? G.K.: No self-published meaning prohibited. A.K.: Oh ok. But in terms as the literature, the actual music, or...?
G.K.: Only music. It was all of these artists and orchestras that became popular in the 1950s, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and then Miles Davis appeared Oscar Peterson and Bill Evans. I can talk about that for a long time. A.K.: Do you have a favorite singer? A vocalist? G.K.: I have recently heard that in the United States, if you want to punish a 10-year old boy, you put them in their room and put on Frank Sinatra. But then when I was young Frank Sinatra was a lot of pleasure to listen to. Nat King Cole was another example. A.K.: Have you heard of Johnny Hartman. He has an album with John Coltrane which is really wonderful. G.K.: It was an orchestra that was created by Miles Davis and there was a special arrangement of Porgy and Bess. With different instruments (flute, oboes, horns…) and that was along side with the Big Band. A.K.: Well, I could talk to you about Jazz forever because it is a specialty of mine, but I want to ask you, because we have only a few minutes left, if you’re open to talking about the things you’re looking forward to, that you’re working on now, or upcoming projects that you’re working on that you’re excited about. G.K.: Currently I’m working on a piece for cello, folklore singer, and orchestra. It will be premiered in Istanbul at a festival there in 2012. The city of Kronberg, which is near Frankfurt, has a certain music academy. Rostropovich played a big role during the foundation of this academy. And in two years this academy will turn 30, so they asked me to write a piece that will be performed during the festival. So I offered them a piece for cello and mixed choir without orchestra. A.K.: Well thank you for talking with me. G.K.: It was also a pleasure for me to be here. (transcribed by Jeremy Vaughan and revised by Eugene Astapov)
COMPOSING WITH CONSONANCE PAUL GLASS LECTURE The topic of this lecture will be some of my compositional devices. Let's start with the nomenclature that we will need. Rather than using the terms “minor second, major second, third, fourth, and tritone”, it is easier to express this difference in semitones. Unlike in old counterpoint where one meant a unison, here it is zero. One is what we used to call a semitone, two is the major second, three is the minor third, four is the major third, five is the perfect fourth, and six is the tritone (or the 'devil in music') (example 1). When we invert the intervals, we get the sum of twelve. In the case of the first one (the minor second), if you go down the other way and get the old major seventh, the difference is going to be eleven semitones. In this system, the tritone becomes, in effect, the most perfect interval, where it used to be the most imperfect interval.
Example 1. Intervals expressed by numbers (interval class)
When Arnold Schönberg and his pupils organized the 12-tone system, they were looking for the construction of the rows that avoids major triads, minor triads, diminished chords, augmented chords, and so on in order to gain music far enough away from tonality as possible, or atonality. But among the three, Alban Berg was the one who turned back to Romanticism. In his last piece, the Violin Concerto (1935), we have before us the traditional triads. If we consider the minor triad, the g minor triad is coupled to the D major triad, and the a minor, and the E major, and then the three notes that are not triads at the end (example 2). They are three times the interval of two which exists in a diatonic scale; it’s not a whole-tone scale yet. Berg took the old German Bach Corale Es ist genug, which starts out
with these last four notes of the series, and writes variations in the last movement of the Violin Concerto.
Example 2. Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto system of triads
If we go backwards, we will see that what Berg was trying to do was to organize the 12-tone row using traditional relationships: the E major chord is the dominant of a minor, and the a minor is the second degree of G; it’s ii-V-I, like every pop song. We go from ii (the a minor) to the D Major, which is V of I, utilizing the old fashioned circle of fifths. Alban Berg’s construction of a row using the circle of fifths probably came to him by replicating the open strings of the violin, G/D/A/E (example 2). There is also an overlap between each triad. The third note of the first triad (G/Bb/D), the D, is a Common Tone with the next chord. However, I was never able to accept those three notes that lay outside of the circle (C#, Eb, F). Example 3a shows that there is a way to transform Berg’s system to create a perfect circle of fifths. In example 3a the F# is changed to F-natural to get the function without the leading tones G/Bb/D/F-natural/A. Now there is a series of three minor triads, G/Bb/D, D/F/A, A/C/E, and E/G#/B stays the same. By switching the Fnatural to F#, which is note number 12, gives another circle of the fifths, leading to the B Major triad. So, the B functions as the V/E, V/A, V/D, V/G, leaving the C# as the last note.
Example 3a. Paul Glass’ system of perfect circle of fifths
Example 3b. Paul Glass’ system of complete perfect circle of fifths
In 3b I coupled the end notes, numbers 11 and 12, F# and C#. In a 12tone row, the last note returns to the first note, so F#/C#, pitches 11 and 12, return to one and you get Bb (enharmonic A#) going backwards. Now there is a circle of fifths connecting six triads, F# functioning as the V/B, B the V/E, E the V/A, A the V/D, and D the V/G, giving the complete circle. I worked with that, and I found it a bit difficult to work with because of the severe tonal relationships inherent in the circle of fifths. From this came the idea that I utilized in Corale I per Margaret (1995) for string orchestra. We’re going to see other uses of this idea, and many examples of using triads. It is a useful system if you want to get back to triads and still use all 12 notes. If you have them, why not use them? Example 4a has a g minor triad, and a D-flat major triad at either end. The minor and the major with a separation of 6 (tritonus). Then, in the middle there is an a minor triad and a B major triad. These four triads contain all 12 tones between them. But for me, it’s un-symmetric and not much fun to work with. So, example 4b represents the series I came up with. But, it would be very stupid to work out a series in the same way today (this was in 1995) as Schönberg and others such as the post-serialist Luigi Nono did. In that way I needed to find new ways to use the series in a way which, to me, has much more beauty in its mathematical perfection.
Example 4a. Triads in 12-tone system.
Example 4b. Triads in 12-tone system
The first triad is G major (example 4b), and the third is Db major. They are both major and are exactly the interval 6 apart. The second triad is eb minor, and the last, a minor which are also separated by 6, and they’re both minor. So you can all see the logic, symmetry, and balance inherent in this. I want to quote Robert Schumann when he said «If you’re going to make a piece of music, make sure there is a very strong organizational process. Because, with this strong organization, it is possible» (not necessarily the case, but it is possible) «to create a masterpiece.» It may not be a masterpiece, but at least because of this excellent organizational process you might be able to come up with something that could be interesting. Schumann said, «If there’s no organization principle, forget it.» I must have been very young when I was taken by this expression, and thought, «Well I’ll try to do it. Not sure that I get away with it every time, but I’m going to give it a chance.» In example 4b you will see where I put the roman numerals on the G major triad, the Eb minor triad, the Db major triad, and the A minor triad. The next step is shown in example 5. Just like in any contrapuntal exercise in the 16th century, we take the G major chord to start with, and looking at the series (example 4b), it picks up a new note. Now the Schönberg 12-tone row doesn’t interest me. I’m going to find the next note in the new triad where I can move as smoothly as possible. It’s smoothest when it is the common-tone or stepwise motion, but not by a skip; conjunct motion.
Example 5. System of common-tone and conjunct motion
At any vertical moment in this process there are only major or minor triads. I have, from the beginning, eliminated the concept of the second inversion 6/4 chord, because it’s dissonant and I want to be consonant. I want to find out if it’s possible to write a piece that is 100% consonant. Moving in that way, the next triads are G minor, Eb first inversion, and Eb minor first inversion. Exactly in the center of the expression is an anticipation, which is going to be a beauty, because when it is retrograded the anticipation becomes un ritardo, or, in English, a suspension; a lovely 7-6 suspension. From the anticipation I move to a Bb minor chord first inversion and then to Db major. Continuing in the same way the Db major becomes Db minor, and then A major in first inversion, and A minor in first inversion. Before examining the retrograde, it’s useful to discuss something else that happens. Looking at the top line will reveal that the top and the middle voices are exact inversions, helping to satisfy Schumann’s law; an organization which can not be bent. The bottom line follows the rules of 16th century counterpoint, being the only part that moves by skips. Keeping the three part counterpoint texture, we must keep the two upper parts as close together as we can, while the bass can have the freedom to skip. Sometimes if you’re looking for something new, you’ll find it in the old. Example 6 is the exact retro of the original progression.
Example 6. System of common-tone and conjunct motion (retrograde)
In Corale I per Margaret These chords we just talked about are produced diagonally and move at a relatively slow speed. At the end of each phrase we have six bars and a fermata. Then, at the Golden Section, the Golden Mean (1.618), something had to happen. Throughout the score, the strings have their mutes on and are barely touching pianissimo, except at the Golden Section, where it is fortissimo. All of this was planned before I wrote the piece. This recording makes use of 70 players which is perfect for this piece. A lot of people believe you need more strings to get volume, but in reality you need more strings to play quietly.3 Each time the phrase comes in we have one of the millions of different ways of dividing a string orchestra. Ever since Berlioz decided to divide the first violins in 3 different parts as well as dividing the second violins in his Symphonie Fantastique there have been many studies of how to orchestrate for strings. Unlike anyone before him, he divides the strings into many parts. I donâ€™t think thereâ€™s one piece of Mozart, in all of his music, where the first violins are divided.
Example 7. Chords in root position for Corale I per Margaret
Corale I per Margaret was performed by the Radio Symphony Orchestra of Basel in Zurich, Switzerland, conducted by Fritz VĂśgelin.
Examples 7a and 7b show the chords in root position that are used in Corale I per Margaret. What happens here shows how you can create diatonic situations with 12-tone situations and make it work. How is it done? Everybody at that time was relying on hexachords; 6+6. Lutosławski himself was working with diminution and augmentation of intervals. But, here it’s 7+5, which I will explain. In example 8, the first chord (G/B/D), fourth chord (A/C/E), and the Gb (enharmonic F#), create the G major scale. Next, taking the Gb at the end and coupling it with Eb, Bb, Db, F, and Ab creates the pentatonic part of either an Ab scale or Gb scale. When the music goes on, C and G can be added to this pentatonic scale to create an Ab scale, or Gb and Cb can be added to create a Gb scale.
Example 8. System of diatonic scales for Corale I for Margaret
In my view, the simpler it is the better it is. And then when you’re writing your music, if it’s simple enough, you’ve got super freedom; an almost improvisatorial freedom with your material. If your material is complex you have to step back and say “was that a number six of the note of...” Now you have some material that is quite close together.
Example 9. System of diatonic scales for Il pianto de la Madonna
Example 9 presents an ascending chromatic scale, the top group covering Db/D/Eb/E/F/F#, and the lower group containing C/B/Bb/A/Ab/G. The composite result is that moving up 1, is followed by going down 2, up 3, down 4, up 5, down 6. 6 is the center, therefore when we move backwards, 1-6 is the retrograde of 7-12, providing 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. This creates the possibility of an all symmetric set up, with no
odd intervals going in and out or anything of the like. It is in sequence, taking the 12th and last note and bending it around to the beginning creates another six creating a perfect circle. Looking at the next example (example 10), the notes have been converted into diatonic scales. This was possible after I went through hundreds that didn’t work.
Example 10. System of diatonic scales for Il pianto de la Madonna
Here there is a C major scale and a Db pentatonic; the white and black keys giving us a 12 tone row. To complete the Db scale we add F and C. Our next scale B Major plus the F and C left over needs 3 notes from D Major to complete a row. For the third series we take the notes from D Major not yet used (E, F#, B and C#) and add them to a Bb Major scale plus the note Ab to complete the series. Then we add the six notes left from the Eb scale (Eb, F, G, Bb, C and D) and at this point we retrograde all that came before at interval 6 and we have all 12 tonalities of Example 9. Sometimes when you construct your row, you play with it and you get home. Sometimes when you’re doing this it gets all mucked up and it doesn’t work and nothing happens, depending on the kinds of scales you choose. There are, in effect, only 240 possible choices that are symmetric in the sense that they will bend at the hexachord and be exact inversions of the first six. There are 240 of those, but there are many, many of the other ones. Working with this system, the first 7 notes may be used in any order creating over five thousands possibilities. Haydn would have had just as many possibilities without repeating anything. The first 7 notes (C/B/G/A/F/E) are played with no concept of serial planning, and is completely free. As soon as all 7 notes have been used, the music moves on. The next 5 may be used in any order as well. Thinking about it mathematically, there are more than a hundred possibilities. The next set of pitches are more restricted in the possibilities: they can be played as F and then C, C and then F, F + C, or, as in Schönberg, it can be played it on top of the previous material. In the next group of 7 notes, it is again
possible to arrange them in any order. The same applies for the following 3 pitches, and so on. There are pieces of mine which don’t always use this system. I recently used it two years ago in a film and it worked really well. I’ve used it on several films. And it’s an easy way to move quickly if you need to. Some of your best music is often written quickly. Some of it is written slowly. For example, my Sinfonia n.7 has taken me four years. We have here a system where I’m now going to show you how it works. There are possibilities to revert if you wanted to work 7+7+7+7 and forget about 12. You would be in a totally diatonic situation, which is what happens in Corale II per Margaret for string orchestra. This will take the most diatonic approach. I must say that in the early days, and we’ll hear another example, the most wildly experimental music I’ve written up until now was written with these series. In Corale II per Margaret I tried to find new ways of using the strings. It is a kind of Piccolo Concerto Grosso where there is a string quartet versus the string orchestra. In a performance in the Tonhalle in Switzerland, the quartet was four Stradivarius instruments. This is a different series in which each one of the notes again represents a scale; G is a whole G major scale, and Ab is a whole Ab major scale and so on. This series is built exactly in this way. There is a change of one interval up, two intervals down, three up, one up, two up, and so forth, and the retrograde is the inversion. The form is a sort of Rondò form, but once again these are all phrases of a Corale. Each phrase is determined by the interval difference between the scale: the A material, which is plus one, is always the same when it’s plus one; minus two is B material; and plus three is the C material (Example 11) and then all is mirrored. Obviously if I have plus three or minus three, I’ve got different problems of getting from one tonal center to the next. There is a tiny change at the end of each phrase in order to get the phrase to sound like the same musical material.
Example 11. System of diatonic scales for Corale II for Margaret
The orchestration changes with every phrase, and it’s built out of 3 bars where the 7 notes, once they’ve occurred, are allowed to turn. The 7 notes can be used and turned around in any order, filling up the 3 bars, making a kind of modulation using the same rules as before, but quite differently. Here, the common tones are the dissonances not the consonances. So I laid that law down on this piece from beginning to end and I ended up with all new kinds of smooth modulations using this system. Once I’ve done that I go into my Ab scale and I use only the first 5 notes then add the next two, and then I’m in a situation of Ab. I play around with that for three bars until I have to move to Gb. And Gb is my new thematic material which is going to use the B material. And so on to the end of the piece. I’m constantly having my students go over and over again to see if there’s any crack in here. Something that doesn’t really work 100%. Because, as far as I’m concerned if it’s not 100% I keep working on it until I get it right. Here we have an example of using these as 12 times 7 which you can see immediately is going to give a much more almost diatonic approach, or one could even say tonal. I took the old Palestrina rule and made the suspensions go back to front to make it more fun. That is to say that the resolutions in his music are now the suspensions in mine. The suspensions in my music are the resolutions in his. Thinking about it in these terms if I arrive at a completely perfect triad I get away from it as quickly as I can, but I have to arrive at them in order to make these kinds of changes.4
Example 12a. System of diatonic scales for How to Begin
The last thing we’re going to talk about here is a piece called How to Begin. I was getting so wild in my music that I wanted to step back and have another new approach. What I did was write a piece that does all kinds of new things. It is basically a piece in four parts and utilizes seven 12-tone rows four times. From beginning to end, the upper part, which 4
Corale II per Margaret for string orchestra was performed in the Tonhalle in Zurich, with the Symphonic Orchestra Zurich, conducted by Christof Escher.
changes in octaves, changes in instruments and plays 12 notes eight times. All four parts will do that. So the only way to divide it is, of course, the way that I’ve divided it here. The Roman numerals in the example 12b are 12-note rows. The first, second, third, and fourth cover the four parts and have twelve notes. Five, six, seven, and one will the be next four parts. Two, three, four, and five will be the next four parts and so on, and the picture will mirror itself. This is an example where the vertical sound can be analyzed as a seven note diatonic situation slowly becoming a twelve tone situation. Horizontally it is always 12 different notes in succession without a repetition. How to Begin is for large orchestra: 3 flutes, 3 oboes, 3 clarinets, 3 bassoons (all woodwinds with their doubles), 4 horns, 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, 3 percussion players, harp, piano, and a huge string section.
I II III IV V VI VII I II III IV V VI VII VII VI V IV III II I VII VI V IV III II I
Example 12b. System of 12-tone rows in How to begin
I was often criticized for being too modern, and I have been, yes, criticized for being not modern enough. But I don’t even know what that means. So it doesn’t bother me, because what I think is really modern is not really modern. You can’t be ahead of your times, but you could be behind them, or you could be with them. But never ahead of the times. I think I’m with the times in the various pieces that I write. I do vacillate back and forth between extremely 'not modern' or 'un-dissonant' to very 'modern' things. I’m always going from piece to piece and I’m never at the same point in things. I think that each piece presents its own problems. (revised by Jeremy Vaughan, Ingrid Pustijanac, and Giovanni Albini with permission from Paul Glass)
COMPOSING TODAY - INTERVIEW WITH COMPOSERS OF THE 2011 HIGHSCORE FESTIVAL5 Ingrid Pustijanac MUSIC, HISTORY AND EMOTIONS The 2011 edition of the highSCORE Festival afforded the opportunity for twenty-six composers of various nationalities and origins (United States, Canada, Finland, Turkey, Israel, Italy, Russia, Ukraine, Estonia, and Ireland) to participate in a rich two week program of lectures, composers’ colloquiums, individual composition lessons, and concerts that featured several premieres of their works. The participants’ diversity of compositional experience, education systems, and individual poetics created a heterogeneous and stimulating scenario for presentation and discussion. This was enriched further by the strongly differentiated aesthetics, cultures, and compositional techniques of the faculty. For instance, Georgia’s most distinguished living composer, Giya Kancheli chose several of his compositions from his more than twenty large orchestra scores and just as many soloist and orchestra scores, to present to the festival participants. The music was deeply spiritual in nature, filled with haunting aural images, varied colors and textures, sharp contrasts, and shattering climaxes. The first work he exhibited was Styx (1999) for viola, mixed choir, and orchestra which is dedicated to Yuri Bashmet. In this work the contrast between the realms of Earth and the underworld, which are divided by the Greek mythological river Styx, is embodied in the relationship between the viola and orchestra. The expressive choir text is constructed using the names of parents, Georgian churches, folk songs, names of dead friends, and so on. The dramatic shape of the piece is created through the tension of the choral parts, the more narrative character of the viola voice, and the pauses of whole orchestra. These features increase the formal arc since the more consonant final section brings with it redemption through the choir breath and soft noise elements. Night Prayers (1994) for soprano saxophone, 5
The present text has been realized from statements expressed by the composers during the introductory meetings and analyses of the individual works that took place each morning (Composers' Colloquium). More specific information on each composer and analytical details of their music comes from individual interviews. I would like to thank all of the composers for providing me with the material necessary for the realization of this collective text.
string orchestra, and tape was a highly evocative score, with the recorded men’s choir playing an important structural role. It was originally composed for string quartet and tape in 1992 as part of the four piece cycle, A life without Christmas. Listening to Kancheli’s music, the participants had the opportunity to focus on some questions regarding to the presence of Georgian folklore elements in his works (or, more generally, folklore and traditional elements in art music), as well as the importance of emotion in the perception and composition of music today. The topic was very carefully developed by Kancheli which he felt was one of the less central aspects to many contemporary composers, and in exact opposition with his own aesthetic. A number of the participating composers felt a closer connection to this aesthetic point of view. An assumption that this deeper connection exists because of their non-western origins would over-simplify the question which is more complex and stratified, as the further examples will illustrate. In Russian composer DIANNA DIMITRIJEVA’S (Conservatory of Bolzano) output, the deep impact exercised by traditional music on her writing can be clearly observed. Horal (2010) for string quartet was performed during the “Chamber music night #1” of 2011 highSCORE Concerts, and provides an evocative aura of traditional melodic writing as well as a certain nostalgic atmosphere through its almost modal/tonal harmonic language and traditional metrical setting, which is dominated by the rhythmic cell ˘ ¯ (i. e. breve/longa). The religious (or more generally, spiritual) approach to music, which was discussed by Kancheli, is reflected in a more restrained and subtly emotional way in the music of Russian (Ukraine-born) composer EUGENE ASTAPOV (Juilliard School of Music).6 The title of his work for two cellos, Confessio (2010), is evidence of its spiritual connotations. It was presented by the composer during the Composers’ Colloquium, and performed during the highSCORE Festival concerts. Astapov’s discussion of the work revealed his interest in an intimate approach to the compositional process. The piece is based on a recognisable gesture in the opening bars that evolves in increasingly more complex formal sections through a highly defined rhythmic-motivic elaboration. The big, 6
Eugene Astapov first participated highSCORE Festival in 2010. A more general introduction to his work can be found in INGRID PUSTIJANAC, Composing today – Interview with composers of the highSCORE Festival 2010, in «highSCORE Proceedings 2010», highSCORE New Music Center, Pavia 2011, pp. 38-40.
quasi-Mahlerian shape of the gestures creates a very expansive breath in the musical phrasing, and directs the listener to the inevitable implosion. At the golden mean, where this moment of implosion occurs, there is suddenly a moment of textural transparency. Astapov’s interest in timbral exploration is present here through the use of two cellos. Their low voices create “the dark side of music”. This attention to timbral investigation is present in Astapov’s recent works, and works as a vital element in the compositional process. «When writing a new work I create ‘color charts’ that give me a chance to work out a map of color progressions in the new piece. In a way it gives me freedom, and at the same time control of the timbral development. In my recent work Mist of Tears for Cello Octet, I derive color effects by using different techniques of the instruments. Various rows of pitches are assigned to different parts, thus creating a unique textural quality for every moment of the composition.» (E. Astapov) This concept of timbral awareness seemed to create a relationship to Kancheli’s Ex Contrario (2006) for two violins, keyboard, bass guitar, and string orchestra, a work that embodied, in the composer's words, the contrast between western and oriental culture, religions and mentality by using two violins and two different stylistic registers. The music of Giya Kancheli offered the opportunity to return once again to a discussion that pervaded the 2010 edition of highSCORE Proceedings. The question considers the presence of material from various locales - traditional, folk, popular, western, non-western, and so on - in what is usually called western art music. 7 Each of the participants had very personal and individual approaches to offer in regards to this idea.8 With the rarefied and, in some ways, unusual sonorities of Radio Ramallah (2010) for guitar solo by Israeli composer and conductor YONATAN CNA’AN (Tel-Aviv University), various musical idioms (western, traditional, popular) are brought together to coexist in a rather individual way. The work was performed by Omar Fassa during the highSCORE 7
The topic was developed particularly in the interview Sound resources from nonWestern music and their use in Western art music – A colloquium on music by Christopher Theofanidis and Ingrid Pustijanac, in «highSCORE Proceedings 2010», highSCORE New Music Center, Pavia 2011, pp. 11-18. For more details about the term Others see GEORGINA BORN, DAVID HESMONDHALGH (ed. by), Western Music and Its Others. Difference, Representation and Appropriation in Music, University of California Press, Berkley/Los Angeles/London 2000 and also INGRID PUSTIJANAC, La musica d’arte dell’Occidente oltre l’Occidente. http://www.cini.it/it/pubblication/page/100.
concert series “Nights, Fires, and Dances”, and explores the «figurative and gestural writing with [the] intention of amplifying the timbral horizon of the instrument using extended techniques of playing guitar». (Y. Cna’an) That was one of the primary dimensions in the conception of the music; exploration of sound and a highly differentiated timbral palette. Such techniques can be observed in Cna’an’s other works, such as Ma’a'makim (2010) for large orchestra, Yes we Can!? (2010) for 3 singers and 7 instruments, based on speeches by president Obama, and Tracks of Light (2005) for 9 instruments. In his Master’s thesis (received at The Buchmann-Mehta School of Music, Tel Aviv University, in 2010) the composer came closer to the Spectral Music movement of 1970s Paris, focusing on the music of Tristan Murail. A spectral (or postspectral) approach to his own music is not as clearly evident in the control of vertical harmonic or non-harmonic content, but much more in the blurring of the boundaries between the classical constructs of sound and noise. For him, the sonic world is a continuum. A different interpretation of the coexistence of traditional and art music, as well as sound-object research, is explored by Turkish composer ALICAN CAMCI (Peabody Institute, Baltimore). Camci’s studies in classic guitar performance (2000-2008 with Husrev Isfendiyaroglu) and Jazz theory and Improvisation (2005-2007 with Mustafa Donmez) were enriched by his interest in French spectral composition and research in sound domains. A personal blending of the Orient and Occident is constantly developed in Camci’s music, and can be clearly heard in the suggestive sound world of his chamber music: karınca duası for violin and cello (2010), fragment regarding structure for mixed ensemble (2009), untitled composition for viola and cor anglais (2009), normalisations for piano, harpsichord, celesta, marimba and vibraphone (2008), and his String Quartet (2010-2011). «The ideas behind yaylı dörtlü (string quartet) spring from a Byzantine Easter hymn, Πασκα το τερπνον [Paskha to Terpnon]. The piece is one continuous movement that consists of smaller movements and parentheses that are related somehow to the hymn. Instead of separate variations on this hymn, the piece relies on constant variation technique on both the hymn and material presented up to any given point during the course of the piece.» (A. Camci) Chamber music and music for solo instruments are the environments in which the composer explores not only the life of constructed sound-objects, but also the dimension of musical time that is linked to the writing of those sounds. «The question of time is, of course, very crucial. Most of the
scores are barred after the piece is finished, therefore time is not always synchronised with metered clock time. In a lot of the cases, musical time is related to the properties of sound (decay of resonance, or specific envelope of a certain sound), especially in music for smaller ensembles and solo instruments, where synchronisation of instruments is not a big problem.» (A. Camci) Classical concert music composer and pianist VIOLA YIP (Bowling Green State) is a native of Hong Kong and an advocate for contemporary music. She incorporates many different musical styles into her works and draws inspiration from the visual arts. Through these devices, she seeks to make her music a vehicle for communication. Her debut composition When Vincent was Looking at the Sea (2008), for chamber orchestra was premiered by the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong. In Wh-I-Te (2009-2010) for ensemble, her involvement with the Chinese musical tradition, which is not very frequent in her work, is expressed through the use of both classical Western instruments (flute, oboe, clarinet, percussion, viola, cello, and double bass) and traditional Chinese instruments (pipa, guzheng, and erhu). Dedicated to contemporary music, Yip has performed not only her own compositions, but also the works of her colleagues working as a pianist, a conductor, and a singer. Most of her output is for chamber groups, such as The Corner of Numbness (2009), On a Flying Bubble (2009) and Under the Bright Sky (2009). She has also written for solo instruments as in Four Pieces (2009) for piano solo, and The Step (2009) for solo viola. During the “Chamber Music Night #1” of the 2011 highSCORE Festival, Yip’s string quartet The Colorful Darkness (2011) was performed. It is highly virtuosic score in which Yip creates a sonic balance between the four instruments as if they where a unique body with the large timbric and rhythmic possibilities of a single voice. More contrast in voicing is present in Watercolor Sketches (2010), a set of 5 short pieces for flute, clarinet in B-flat, horn, piano, viola and cello «inspired by different textures and techniques of watercolor paintings.» (V. Yip) The music of composer and multi-instrumentalist DANIEL HERBERT VANHASSEL (University of California, Berkeley) draws its influence from his experiences with performing in rock bands, orchestras, chamber ensembles, and Javanese and Balinese gamelan. Often highly rhythmic, his works embrace noise and chaos as well as the simplest of triadic harmonies. As an active performer and improviser, Dan is a founding
member of the new music ensemble Agenda, the free-improv group Output, and the composers collective Test Pattern. He also was a cofounder of the Embryonic Noise concert series in Boston which is devoted to the music of emerging composers, as well as the ‘Comprovised’ music series spotlighting contemporary improvisation. His interest in crossover music is evident in his list of works, in which we find: Zipper Metropolis (2010) for rock sextet, Perverse Myopia (2009) for electric guitar, Of Intangible (2007) for flute, cello, electric guitar, and live electronics, Lucid Innocuous (2007) for violin, cello, piano, and electric guitar, Instance (2008) for soprano saxophone, bassoon, turntables, and live electronics. He also makes use of more traditional settings as in Agitate Ecstatic (2009) for chamber ensemble, Incandescent Squander (2007) for flute, bass clarinet, and bassoon, Frivolous Incinerate (2006) for chamber ensemble, Transfigured Celestial (2005) for orchestra, and the highSCORE premiered Revoked (2011) for guitar and string quartet. Following the 2010 edition of the highSCORE Festival, which was dedicated to exploring the combination of string quartet with guitar, Revoked illustrates how the character of one of the most traditional instrumental ensembles can be completely transformed when combined with an instrument such as the guitar, evoking new aesthetic horizons. «The piece juxtaposes rich rockinfluenced harmonies on the guitar with noisy, percussive textures in the string quartet. Composed as one continuous arch of energy accumulation, Revoked explores a richness of irregular rhythmic patterns which fast alternation of different meters (13/16, 5/8, 7/8, 11/16, etc.) produces.» (D. VanHassel) Discovering one’s geographical and historical origins through music composition seems to have been one of the main factors in developing the aesthetic outlines of RIHO ESKO MAIMETS’S (University of Toronto) works. The Toronto-born composer and highSCORE Prize 2011 winner completed his undergraduate studies in composition at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre in Tallinn (Estonia), while discovering and reconnecting with his Estonian heritage. In a recent discussion the composer noted that during his time in Estonia (2006-2010) he became immersed in the ancient culture of his Estonian forebears and of the old world. This immersion would not have been possible in the new world, where it he feels that «roots are often forgotten and the concept of time is much more limited.» Maimets believes that he is «but one small part of a heritage that extends back millennia,» through which this life is given
deeper meaning. He adds that he is very moved by being one tiny part of something that is eternal. That thought provides the composer great comfort, and he seeks to extend that feeling of consolation and beauty to his listeners. Maimets believes that every single person has a heritage and is a part of something much greater than can be sensed. He has composed a significant amount of choral music which has been performed by groups in Estonia such as the Tartu Academic Women's Choir, Tallinn Chamber Choir, and the vocal ensemble Heinavanker ("Haywain"). He has also composed works for instrumental chamber groups, and an Opera, The Jealous Husband, Episode 3 (2010/11, libretto by Michael Albano). However, it is his orchestral piece ...aux étoiles (2009/10) that stands as the summation of his recent aesthetic and compositional ideas. Written for a large orchestra and premiered May 8, 2010 by the EAMT Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Toomas Vavilov at the Tallinn Methodist Church, ...aux étoiles can be described as "enchantingly beautiful" and as having a "unique emotional and communicative impact". The composer explains that the title ...aux étoiles came to him at a concert on February 6, 2010 in Tallinn where Giya Kancheli's Dixi was performed by the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra and the State Choir Latvija (Latvia) under the direction of Andres Mustonen: «A snippet of text near the end of the piece expressed the thought that we are all moving towards the stars. At the moment I was searching for an appropriate title for my orchestral piece and this seemed perfect. It is a beautiful coincidence that Giya Kancheli happened to be the guest of honor at the highSCORE Festival 2011 and should speak at length about Dixi.» (R. Maimets) Poetic snippets of French text appear in the score as thoughts and gestures that outline the form of the piece, but they remain vague because the composer didn't want his own personal interpretation of the piece to interfere with that of anyone else’s. The beginning of the score is organized as a very slow but continuous process of accumulating sound. The first part is accompanied by the text “J’ouvre les yeux” (“I open my eyes”). This section was of great importance in Maimet’s conception of the work: «When composing this piece my thoughts were focussed on events during World War II which deeply impacted my family. In 1940, when the Soviet Union occupied Estonia, my great-grandfather, an officer in the Presidential Corps of the Estonian Defence Forces was arrested and promptly executed. The screaming noises from the strings in combination with the militaristic bass drum and fff brass and winds is my
attempt at expressing the horror of such a traumatic event in the life of my grandmother, who was 10 at the time.» (R. Maimets) The music, however, stops unexpectedly at the moment of greatest dynamic intensity. From here the second section begins - “et je commence à voir” (“and I begin to see”). A very suggestive timbral and harmonic environment begins to slowly amass, and explodes in an energic section, labeled “ce qui a été” (“which was”), where the rhythmic motion and high registers, along with a blaring brass section creates a quasi-primordial sound world. The music continues with “et je lève les yeux…” (“and I look up...”) which signals a return to the static and reflexive atmosphere which concludes in the final section “...aux étoiles” (“...at the stars”), a message of consolation where the thought that «all the suffering on Earth is miniscule in comparison to the stars. It is comforting and seemed an appropriate way to end the piece.» In some moments, the rich harmonic world of ...aux étoiles seems to reference the sonorities of some spectral scores by Grisey or Murail, but is essentially constructed around Maimet’s personal view of the Setu mode: «The Setu are a people in South-Eastern Estonia who have a language and folk music distinct from the rest of the Estonian people. The Setu mode is common in their folk music and is hexatonic, built on a minor-third minor-second sequence.» (R. Maimets)
QUESTIONS OF HARMONY Managing a traditional Setu mode in a new way, Maimet’s realized his own answer to the question of how to overcome the consonance/dissonance or tonal/non-tonal dichotomy, which is often a complex issue to contend with. In fact, many composers that work with pitches as the first compositional dimension, rather than complex soundmasses or sound/noise antinomy, develop various individual systems to manage the multitude of possibilities of generating rhythmic-melodic cells or patterns that form the basic melodic and harmonic material of a piece. During his lecture, PAUL GLASS, illustrated his own system of writing music in a pandiatonic system. His solution involved using the 12-tone system devoid of its traditional implications of dodecaphony. Glass unifies the polyphonic voicing of a 12-tone system in a process of continuing permutation of the pitch material.9 Other composers that were 9
For more details see in this volume the Paul Glass Lecture.
present in Pavia, presented their own singular way of managing this kind of compositional problem. YOUNGMI CHO (Duke University) provided some of his more articulated examples of his approach to this issue. Cho has composed many chamber works, such as Dreaming, or Dreamt (2010), Piscipiri (2006), and Jabbering (2005) for jazz quintet. She is also a member of the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music and has composed various works for computers and electronics, two examples being her Dust Variation (2007) for realtime computer, and Prepared Clock (2006) for electronics. Her involvement with Arts and Technology is reflected in her approach to composition from a structural and mathematical point of view. For instance, in Two Pieces for Piano (2009) she developed a rigorous system for controlling pitch content that is similar to the Paul Glass’ harmonic system: «The idea for Two Pieces for Piano is based on a study of the pelog scale, a seven-note scale of gamelan music that sometimes sounds like a pentatonic scale or, at other times, a chromatic scale when applied to the twelve-tone temperament of piano. Pitches are systematically structured from the scale; C#, the pitch center in the beginning, gradually expands to C, to E, and so forth in both pieces, while short tunes from a Javanese folk song or its fragments are liberally added to them. Bora and Zephyr denote a cold and dry wind in the Adriatic Sea and a soft breeze in the ancient Greek, respectively. I do not mean that the pieces are programmatic, but that the titles correspond to images of linear motions by means of unfolding scales in the first piece, and of tranquil harmonies in the second piece by means of pelog chords and traditional tunes.» (Y. Cho) In a similar way her recent Cellflakes (2011) for sextet, a work that she presented during the Composers’ Colloquium, «was structured by cellular automata, which is a kind of biological model; a collection of cells that evolves according to certain rules based on its neighboring states. Xenakis employed this principle to his later orchestral pieces to produce complex sonorities with minimal rules. I applied the technique to project the pitch system of this piece. As a cell grows into an organic body […] Not linearly, but symmetrically the progress develops into complex harmonies. […]» (Y. Cho) A more narrative approach to piano music was introduced by Irish composer ATHENA CORCORAN-TADD (University of Oxford) in her Three Piano Miniatures – Diaspora: Fragments as a Whole (2010). A great violin, fiddle, and Irish harp player, Corcoran-Tadd articulated this tour
trough imaginary countries by managing the rhythmic-melodic material as elements of reminiscence and allusion to specific geographical and emotive atmospheres. In the first part, Beannach (Departure), harmonic agglomerates (three note chords in non triadic form; tone+octave, semitone+tritone, third+tritone, etc.) engage in a dialogue with a short melodic gesture (G/F#A) that transforms into new melodic elements without losing its original character. The second piece, Dzwoník-dzwony (The Bell-Ringer), explores the rich possibilities of the piano’s resonance, while in the third piece, Peregrino (Wanderer in the Rain at Night), the two hands move in the extreme registers of the instrument. In the low octaves the motive of the ‘peregrine’ is presented in a legato shape, and in the right hand are placed the short staccato ‘rain’ motives. Piano music is often the starting point for young composers. ALEXANDRA ELIZABETH RINN (Boston University), for instance, presented her piano piece The Moonrise over Sunflowers (2011) which was performed during the highSCORE Concerts. In it she explores irregular rhythmic patterns with ostinato harmonic figures. The piano piece Moonrise over Sunflowers was recently changed to just Moonrise, where the harmonic language evolved into more complex sonorities: «My harmonies have gotten less tonal since then but I always like to hint towards tonality in my music.» (A. E. Rinn) The harmonic and pitch control developed over recent months in her musical language came through the application of a system based on half step movements to generate the rhythmic and melodic material for different works: «I composed a chamber orchestra piece called Sirens in 2011, which I later turned into a string quartet in 2012. I used a motive made up of half steps, and developed a lot of the piece through that motive. I also wrote a piece for violin and piano called Flaming June (2012) based on a painting by Sir Frederic Leighton. I'm still working on improving that piece.» (A. E. Rinn)
MUSIC AND POETRY The everyday presence of the American Composer AMY BETH KIRSTEN during the Composers' colloquium as a member of the faculty, together with the chair of composition, CHRISTOPHER THEOFANIDIS, provided a great opportunity to develop more general questions each day, and to create a background for larger discussion. Kirsten’s lecture focused particularly on one topic that cropped up several times throughout the discussions - an aspect that is central to her compositional approach. Because of her
background as a vocalist, she perceives instrumental forces as “mouths that are playing instruments,” and imagines music as being vocal first. Her music often requires instrumentalists to vocalize while playing and reflects an important relationship between vocal and instrumental parts. Her degree in Vocal Jazz Performance, where, as a singer, she was required to study alongside trumpet performance majors, was an influential early musical experience. «This early experience really taught me to think of the voice as an instrument; it taught me how to build a dramatic improvised solo; and required me to think “outside the box” in terms of what roles the voice can play within an ensemble – both jazz and classical.» (A. B. Kirsten) One of the most notable elements in her compositional aesthetic, in particular in her instrumental writing, is the “vocalizations” that are required of all performers. They all play a double role, as instrumentalist and as singer. In this way not only the timbral palette is expanded, but the psychological involvement of the performer is heightened. One of the pieces she illustrated during her lecture was Speak to me, a piano piece extracted from the Two Monologues (2011) for solo flute and solo piano, commissioned by Piano Spheres and California Institute of the Arts for Vicki Ray. In this piece the pianist is required to articulate a text by Mariko Nagai (via speaking, singing, and whispering) while playing. Kirsten describes the relationship between the text and the music this way: «The text and the piano part work in tandem to express the myth of Echo and Juno. In this piece the vocalizations serve as a kind of multiplier – the pianist is at once an actress playing two roles (of both Echo and Juno), a pianist, and a storyteller. In the first movement we hear Echo spinning one of her famous yarns, in the second movement the pianist uses the extremes of her vocal registers to play both Echo (high) and Juno (low voice), and in the third movement (the longest movement), there is only piano. This reflects Echo’s inability to speak after Juno cursed her for her betrayal.» (A. B. Kirsten) The two other works were presented during the lecture: The Haunting of Mr. Wolf (2009) for solo electric cello, two amplified sopranos, electric strings (violin, viola, contrabass), and three percussionists (requiring all performers to vocalize) with text from The Little Red Riding Hood; and L'ange pâle (2010) for flute, soprano, and two percussionists (where again, all parts vocalize), with a text by the composer. The technique of vocalizing while playing is connected to a very important role given to the text that influences Kirsten’s music on different levels. «In each of these pieces a soprano (or two) is part of the instrumentation. However,
the instruments and the voices of the instrumentalists are weaved together to create a kind of super-instrument so that the musicians who would normally have a featured role (the singers) are placed within the fabric of the sound world of the instruments – not in front of it. Many of the musical gestures are deconstructed to fine details so that one gesture may contain many different timbres from beginning to end. One of the things that draws me to composing this way is that, to me, breath is everything in music. Because of this, music makes most sense when the participants breathe and create musical gestures together – when they are all required to vocalize (and when the singers are required to play percussion) everyone has a chance to experience a new addition to their own musical vocabulary. Therefore, they are approaching the sound world in perhaps a different way than they would normally. But this is just a benefit I’ve discovered – not a reason to compose this way. In other words, the music I write is the music I hear – it just so happens that I often hear instrumentalists playing and vocalizing simultaneously.» (A. B. Kirsten) In the Black (2006), a suggestive work for eight part choir, is another example of the richness contained in the relationship between music and lyrics that Kirsten emphasizes in her works. The text here is a kind of a pastiche of different sources, from Petrarch to Shakespeare to Lady Mary Wroth. It is not only the fil rouge of the psychological drama that the voices represent, but also a guide for the gestural and visual aspects of the music itself. «When I was composing this piece I was also composing a work for orchestra – so thinking orchestrally really influenced how I was thinking about the choir. In this way, the piece contains not only text, but also sounds that are derived from the text. Because the poetic concept for this piece is based on the labyrinth (an important poetic convention in the Early Modern era) I was compelled to articulate the music visually as well. To that end, there are several gestures in which the conductor conducts a very dramatic musical event (complete with extremes in dynamics, phrasing and articulations) while the singers are miming singing. The result is very spooky, sinister, and kind of terrifying – much like I imagine it would be to be lost inside a dark labyrinth.» (A. B. Kirsten) Other composers that were present during the 2011 highSCORE Edition were involved in their own ways with the relationship between music and lyrics. For instance, composer and pianist MARIE INCONTRERA (Brooklyn College) introduced her Two American Poems (2010) for
soprano and violin: «Two American Poems was written for Monica Harte and Kuan Cheng Lu for the Music in Midtown Concert Series. These two contrasting works were intended to reflect iconic voices of American poetry and literature. The first, Requiem, is Mark Twain’s adaptation of Robert Richardson's poem Annette, which he used in his daughter Olivia Clemens’ eulogy. The second is Little Orphan Annie, by James Whitcomb Riley, a humorous, popular children’s poem about the importance of being good and obedient.» (M. Incontrera) In these two short movements, the music and the poetry evolve on two different temporal levels, one more narrative and propulsive, and the other more static and reflexive. The formal shape results from a personal reading the text’s structure, articulating moments where the music and text are together, and another where one level is contrasting the meaning of the other. «I felt that these two poems went well together because they both place much importance on death. Requiem is a solemn goodbye to a loved one, and Little Orphan Annie is a playful look at the idea that if we aren't good or obedient, the 'gobble-uns'll git you' and make you disappear. Little Orphan Annie is irreverent and teasing while Requiem is its complete opposite. This was my starting point for putting these two very different works together into a cycle.» (M. Incontrera) The comprehensibility of the text is the main focus in the expressive use of musical and literary elements. In a similar way, the text is the starting point for Inside a Dark Room (2009) for four female voices by STEFANIE JACQUELYN LUBKOWSKI (Boston University). «I wrote this piece for the vocal quartet anthology. The text is by up- and-coming poet and dear friend Stephanie Kartalopoulos. I have set her poem as a modern-day madrigal in which each verse and phrase is set with particular attention to its emotional content, especially as a kernel of familial tension emerges from nostalgia-tinged landscapes before receding into an obscured interior.» (S. Lubkowski) The scoring for four female voices shows how music can amplify the inherent meaning of a text, while also exhibiting an interest in specific timbral explorations of register and harmony. Lubkowski’s “cumulative sonic world” grew out of her exploration of unusual timbres on her mother’s Wurlitzer organ, and her independent study in her high school’s electronic studio. This approach provided a new stimulus after her bachelor’s degree in Music and Technology and Guitar Performance, and lead the way to different compositional approaches derived from literary narratives, avant-garde cultural movements, and periodic pop music fixations. Works such as
Popcorn Effervescence (2009) and X Images for soprano and live electronics (2007) were conceived in an electronic environment, and Lubkowski makes use of both samples and her own field recordings. Some of her favorite sound-sources are a teakettle whistle, the storm drain in her garage, three frog-shaped guiros, and number stations. A flavor of the past sounds throughout the three movements of Verisimilitude (2010-11), an octet for 2 sopranos, flute, clarinet, flugelhorn, horn, violin, and contrabass by NATALIE CHRISTINE MOLLER (University of Readlands). The choice of instrumentation, such as flugelhorn and clarinet, develops an individual sonic aura around the poetry, which is derived from the distant past. “I. There was a time” sets an excerpt from Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood by William Wordsworth (1770 – 1850), “II. Bring not your dreams” uses excerpts from The Broker of Dreams by Richard Le Gallienne (1866 – 1947) and “III. …and I believed” sets the text of You smiled, you spoke, and I believed by Walter Savage Landor (1755 – 1864). The strongly evocative, yet quiet, narrative of Moller’s instrumental music was demonstrated in her work et la bête (2011) for electric violin, which was performed at the Festival. Distant landscapes and melodic shapes with folkloristic flavor sound in this rich and beautiful virtuosic violin work. A powerful definition of the relationship between music and poetry was proffered by RIHO MAIMETS in his comment on MARIO GARUTI’s lecture regarding several specific questions of musical time defined as ‘kairos’.10 «Words have power. I would not like to set music to texts that do not mean anything special to me. The vast majority of my vocal music is choral and uses either religious or folkloric texts. The use of ancient texts speaks of my desire to create timelessness by connecting the present to the past in my music. The idea behind this is to help the listener see his/her life not as beginning with birth and ending with death, but instead, as a link in a chain that starts in the beginning and ends at the end. For me, this is the essence of music composition.» (R. Maimets) Riho’s consideration allows us to introduce the poetics of young composer ALEX WEISER (Yale University). A recent graduate of Yale University, he is described as a composer of patient and thought provoking, yet visceral and dramatic chamber, orchestral, and vocal 10
For more information about this concept in Mario Garuti’s Lecture see highScore Proceedings 2010, pp. 19-24.
music. In the latter domain, Weiser gradually developed, yet a few works can be mentioned. Among them is the suggestive Travelers for Mixed Chorus (2011) on a text by Laura Marris, wordless prayer (2009) for male chorus, and also the early Break of Day (2007) for chorus with a text by John Donne. Alex’s music has a diverse variety of influences and he draws freely from everything, ranging from the history of concert music to the popular music of today. In a number of works for orchestra such as Three Ruminations (2010), Recalibration (2010), Inimmediate Gratification (2009), only a dream (2009) and Eleison (2008) for Chamber Orchestra, Alex often utilises a tonal language and repetition. His musical discourse is at once complex and abstract, and yet always lucid, accessible, and well grounded. During the highSCORE Festival his works Saxifrage II (2011) for string quartet, as well as Distant Memories (2011) and Muddied Memories (2011) for solo piano were performed. In the program notes for these works, a concept of gradual processes and transformation of the melodic and harmonic content based on development and variation procedures can be noticed. «Saxifrage is the name of a type of flowering plant that sets its roots into stones. Over time the roots of these plants can create cracks and splits in the rocks that they grow in – a rather impressive accomplishment for flower. The name Saxifrage in fact derives from the Latin word Saxifraga which means literally, ‘stone breaker’. I thought it would be interesting to explore this idea in a piece – a stony landscape that gradually becomes broken by a beautiful flower that grows out of it.» (A. Weiser) In similar way, Weiser describes the formal process of his 2010 piano piece: «In Distant Memories, I explored the idea of a beautiful music that is partially distorted, and that can’t be completely remembered. In this piece the pianist improvises a soft noisy line at the top of the piano where the distinction between music and noise begins to blur. This improvisation becomes the backdrop for a simple beautiful melodic line that is elaborated throughout the piece. The process of elaboration here is like a search, as if trying to remember or rediscover the full extent of the melody’s original beauty. […]» (A. Weiser)
WRITING AN OPERA highSCORE’s chair of composition, CHRISTOPHER TEOFANIDIS’s recent experience with writing large stage works was a focus of the discourse during this year’s festival. Many of the participants’ involvement with this traditional genre raised various questions regarding to the choice of
narrative, the structure of the libretto, the typologies of vocal and soloist parts, the relationship between the text and its music, the intelligibility of the text, and the role of the orchestral (or, more generally, the instrumental) accompaniment.11 Theofanidis is one of the most distinguished American composers of the symphonic repertoire, with his Symphony (2009), the famous Rainbow Body (2000), and his other numerous concertos for solo instruments and orchestra or chamber orchestra (alto-saxophone, 1994; bassoon, 1997/2002; viola, 2003; piano, 2006; violin, 2008; cello, 2009). In the last ten years Theofanidis has also focused on writing stage works. Since his first opera, The Invention of Music (2001), with a libretto by William M. Hoffman after the Sophocles’ Satyr play, Theofanidis has composed three more stage works: The Ichneutiae, for soloists, chorus, orchestra, rock singer and band, and dancers (in both concert and stage versions), the two act opera The Thirteen Clocks (2002) with a libretto by Peter Webster, and The Refuge (2007) with a libretto by Leah Lax, for soloists, chorus, orchestra, and several non-Western ensembles. These were followed by the recently premièred (September 10, 2011) Heart of a Soldier (2011) with a libretto by Donna Di Novelli. There is already a new work in progress, an ambitious project entitled Siddhartha, with a libretto by Patrick Summers, based on the novel by Hermann Hesse, with première planed for the 2013-14 season with the Houston Opera. A subject that, in some ways, was a fil rouge during group discussions was the musical, dramaturgical, and psychological construction of characters in dramatic works for the stage. Composer and singer RENÉ ERTOMAA (London College of Music) has composed several works for the theatre such as Dangerous Liaisons (premièred on the main stage of the Finnish National Theatre in spring 2008), Song From the Island of Beautiful Children (premièred at the Theatre Academy, Helsinki, in May 2005), and the music theatre piece A Queen and an Executioner (performed in Helsinki and the Tampere Theatre Festival in 2002). He is currently working on an opera project titled Marionette which deals with the political situation in Europe; the main character Don Silvio is inspired by the Italian ex-president, Silvio Berlusconi. Ertomaa's approach is satirical, and the musical parts contribute to this parodist atmosphere by using ancient instruments such as cembalo, and a traditional lyric opera 11
Specific aspects of the relationship between the libretto and the political situation coeval to the composer can be found in the musicological article in this volume written by Paolo Giorgi.
stile. Unlike Theofanidis’ The Refuge, which takes a postmodern approach to the action and characters, contemporary social and political issues stimulate this work. DYLAN PURCELL NEELY (Bard College at Simon’s Rock) is a composer who is particularly sensitive to contemporary history and political tensions. The young composer was one of the first U.S. students to be sent on a Fulbright Grant to Serbia (English Department of the Faculty of Philology, University of Belgrade in 2010/11). His concentrations are in music and modern studies, particularly the music of Weimar Germany during the tumultuous religious and political atmosphere of that time. The elements that began to fuel fascism and the role technological innovations that played in such a volatile artistic and political environment are in the focus of his interest, as well as the music of Kurt Weill and Weill’s Threepenny Opera, defined as a social critique. In his work performed during the highSCORE Festival, Balkan Politics (2011) for string quartet, Dylan’s experience as a violin player of traditional Eastern European folk music and a certain dramatic approach pervade the formal and melodic shape of the work. A more articulate approach to formal and motivic aspects appears in his work for chamber orchestra and synthesizer, El Muerto (The Dead Men), inspired by the short story by Jorge Luis Borges. RICHARD FORD (University of Oklahoma) has vast experience with theatre and film music, demonstrated in his list of works spanning more than twenty-five years as composer, producer, director, art administrator, and performer. As a composer, Ford is known for memorable music for beginners and virtuosi alike that brings together his love for pop, rock, musicals, and symphonic music into an appealing and joyful language. Ford has developed a personal approach to music that is accessible, fun, bold, vivid, and full of movement for soloists, chamber groups, theatre, dance, and film. His compositions for film range from the progressive rock-inspired score for the feature film iCrime (2009) to the short films Trojan Horse, Kith and Kin (2005), Kidnapped (2001), and The State of Things (2000). He is currently working on a ballet, a work for symphonic band, and a commission for the Houston Heights Orchestra where Ford is the Composer-in-Residence. The ballet is titled Bolts of Melody, the same title as Ford’s first large-scale work premiered by Contemporary Chamber Players (conducted by Christopher Neal) in 1998. It is based on the life and work of Emily Dickinson. Ford’s most recent works explore
his love for storytelling in less theatrical genres including Halelegy (2011) for solo piano, We Must Be Bold (2011) for horn, piano, electronics, and tape, and his first string quartet Sunday at 5. All three pieces were premiered during the highSCORE Festival. With a lot of experience in instrumental writing, Ford’s recent music has a penchant for conceiving formal shape as a succession of moments or situations that flow continuously adding up to a collage of various rhythmic-melodic and expressive elements. With a certain quasi-minimalistic approach to rhythm, a kind of ostinato figure strongly links the formal and harmonic structure in both Halelegy and We Must Be Bold. Various other approaches to writing an opera were discussed during the 2011 highSCORE composers’ colloquium. MARIE INCONTRERA, “a wayward pianist and heavy metal ballerina”, composed a 10 minute opera Picture perfect in 2010. She then started a project entitled Paul’s Case, while in the meantime she began and finished an opera setting her own libretto, At the Other Side of the Earth. The temporal relevance of this opera can be observed not only in its setting as punk opera but also in the choice of the subject matter: «At the Other Side of the Earth is a modern day lesbian punk opera about coming out in an oppressive society. Aurora is forced to face who she truly is when she meets Layla, an outand-proud lesbian with a bold and brazen demeanor. When the two women begin their affair, their love clashes with an oppressive, conservative society where same-sex relationships are against the law.» (M. Incontrera) Another approach to writing an opera was presented by ETHAN GANSMORSE (University of Oregon). Ethan Gans-Morse is a composer, teacher, and performer of both contemporary and period music. As the founder, artistic director, and conductor of the Ambrosia Ensemble, a mixed vocal and instrumental chamber ensemble dedicated to premiering new works of a sacred, introspective, or philosophical nature, Ethan combines his love of Renaissance and Baroque music with his passion for new, socially relevant works of art that inspire a sense of the preciousness of life and the interconnection between the human and the Divine. Ethan’s interests as a composer vary widely across both vocal and instrumental genres. The 2011 highSCORE festival provided the premiere of his second work for string quartet, Fantasy, Fugue and Festival (2011). His other numerous chamber works include Elegy (2010) for horn and piano, Alexandria Suite (2009-2010) for flute and cello, Three
Bucolic Dances for flute, trumpet, piano, and bass (2009), and Through the Leaves for flute, violin, clarinet, piano, cello, and marimba (2009). His larger settings include Spring Morning (2011) for chamber orchestra and two works featuring a Balinese gamelan ensemble: Dance of the Ancestors (2011) and The Hero’s Call (2009). In recent years, his attention has focused on choral and vocal writing, and two of his choral works - his extraordinary Ave Maria (2009) and his motet for men’s choir, Surrender (2009), received their professional premieres by The Portland Vocal Consort in their “Best of the Northwest” concert series with Surrender also being selected as the winner of the 2010 Young Composers Composition Contest. The poetry for his Ave Maria is an adaptation of the traditional prayer to Mother Mary written by his partner and long-time collaborator, Tiziana DellaRovere, a «multitalented renaissance woman» whose sacred art, teachings, poetry and writing are unified in her devotion to bringing the mystical experience of the Divine into everyday life. Ethan’s compositional style is largely contrapuntal in character, and his choral writing is largely defined by his efforts to revive the ancient arts of modal polyphony and antiphonal choral writing in a modern context. Even his art songs, such as Sospiro for solo baritone and piano (2009), orchestrated in 2010 for solo baritone and full orchestra by the composer uses a vivid combination of Monteverdi-like textures and sweeping Ravel-like color to explore Tiziana DellaRovere’s poetry on the theme of mystical and ecstatic love. This creates conflicts and contrasts between ancient musical textures (drone, organum, modal counterpoint, etc.) and more recent compositional techniques (dense clusters, Klangfarbenmelodie, extended instrumental techniques, percussion-based orchestration) and is central to his largest and most recent work, an opera-oratorio called The Canticle of the Black Madonna. As Ethan described it at the outset of the project in 2011, «The Canticle of the Black Madonna is a truly unique work of art, drama, and music. Part modern opera, part baroque oratorio, and featuring original music, poetry, paintings, costumes, live ritual, and classical theater, The Canticle of the Black Madonna is an immersive musical work for five operatic soloists, chorus, and chamber orchestra. […] [Tiziana DellaRovere’s libretto] is remarkable, combining rich poetry, classical opera influences, sacred ceremony and rituals of initiation, and a riveting contemporary storyline about a U.S. combat vet and the spiritual/psychological journey that ultimately brings healing to him, his wife, and the world around them.» (E. Gans-Morse) The collision and
integration of opposites is the very essence of The Canticle of the Black Madonna, which combines the eternal, spiritual characters of the Black Madonna and two angels with a hard-hitting story of war, PTSD, domestic violence, and environmental devastation. This contrast is reflected in Ethan’s music, which spans the centuries by drawing on Medieval, Baroque, Impressionistic, and Contemporary influences which nevertheless come together to form a coherent whole. The ritualistic and psycho-spiritual power of The Canticle of the Black Madonna goes beyond the simple narration of the story by interweaving characters drawn from the depths of what Carl Jung termed the “Collective Unconscious” and require some innovative solutions on the formal and dramaturgic levels that transform the original ‘chamber opera’ into something more akin to an ‘opera-oratorio’. There are elements «that simply don't work in a traditional opera but fit perfectly in an oratorio, such as stopping the dramatic action for a character or a chorus to give philosophical or spiritual reflection and wisdom. This was done in the old Greek theater but it goes against all the conventions of modern drama where exposition and commentary should be interwoven with the dramatic plot. There is also the orchestra and chorus onstage the entire show, although costumed, giving the production the visual sense of a living tableau, rather than a traditional opera where the chorus represents actual people and the orchestra is never seen.» (E. GansMorse)
IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE POST-AVANT-GARDE In the rich diversity of the compositional poetics present at the most recent edition of the highSCORE Festival, the young composers exhibited many new and experimental approaches to composition, though surprisingly they often did not trace the origins of their thinking to the avant-garde and post-avantgarde movements. In this context, a very interesting position is occupied by composer and musicologist CHRISTOPHER GARRARD (University of Oxford). His interests in the aesthetics of contemporary music and the visual arts that he pursued as musicologist with Professor Max Paddison have influenced his musical ideas and writing. He has given a number of papers on music, with topics ranging from minimalism and the concept of negative space, indeterminacy in the music of John Cage, Pierre Boulez and Witold Lutosławski, and on more recent topics such as the music of Valentyn Silvestrov and Helmut Lachenmann in relation to the work of the painter/photographer Gerhard Richter with reference to the concepts of
memory and aura. An exploration of the concept of negative space from the visual arts informs his own work. He also experiments with timbre and notational methods in his work Larch & Decay (2010) for chamber orchestra and FM radio, a piece that he composed as a response to Marcus Lee's Frame House. Chris has been involved, as founder and codirector, with the new music and improvisation ensemble Syzygy, and with the M@SH Centre for Experimental Music at the JdP. There he curated and co-directed the M@SH Marathon, an eight-hour performance of new music and art. The influence of these experiences come through in works like Glissando/Glissandi (2005) for solo cello and electronic tape delay, German Bight (2008) for string trio, female vocalist, and electronic reverb, the electro-acoustic work A Night in the Pipeline (2008), and Night, or nothing (2011) for mezzo-soprano, piano, and pre-recorded material on mobile phone. More traditional ensembles are used for his String Quartet (2006), A Dog in Sharjah (2007) and Excurses (2009), both for mixed ensemble, Pink Snow (2009) for baritone, piano, and string quintet, and recent works such as Refrain (2010) for soprano and alto soloists with mixed voices, Out of Aura (2010) for orchestra, Necessary Experiment (2010, rev. 2011) for mixed ensemble, and Nunatak (2011) for viol consort. During the Composers' Colloquium, Garrard presented Ecke (2008-9), a piece for string quartet that was performed on the highSCORE 2010 concerts. When introducing this unusual score, Garrard explained his use of a very specific scoring system. The ensemble is divided into two pairings— violin I/viola and violin II/cello— and then each pair reads from a shared part which has the music for both instruments of that pair printed on it. Garrad stated: «The parts are generally divided into panels of material, about fifteen seconds in length with only occasional exceptions. Where there are exceptions, the change is made clear through the timings indicated. The two pairings of players are coordinated by stopwatch timing. Each pairing should have a stopwatch and begin them at the same time. Timings are given for the start and end of each panel. These timings should be closely observed where possible. However, where lines between parts are given indicating a joint entry or unison playing, the timing serves as a cue and players should co-ordinate their entries.» (C. Garrard) In this score there are several forms of notation used, although the layout is consistent. Material in a repeated bar with a line extending from it should be repeated continuously, explains Garrard, until the timing that corresponds to the end of that line. Players should aim to complete the
repeat they are playing rather than leaving it unfinished. This uncommon way of scoring is present in some of Garrard’s other works which explore the concept of open notation. His three short pieces for harp, piano, and cello – Labyrinthitis: Diamond, Glass, Clock (2009) or Circle Theorem (Open work) (2009) – use graphic scores and open instrumentation. When approaching the complexity of experimental writing, a helpful starting point can be to observe the use of gesture as a main structural element in the conception of musical form and the expression of content within a non-narrative and non-melodic/harmonic context. With a predilection for chamber groups, as the most of his works confirm (for instance Falling Through Infinity (2010) for flute, cello and piano, Invisible Worlds (2009) for flute and piano, Piano Trio No. 1 (2008), Birdhouse Blues (2008) for string quartet and jazz combo, A Light Exists in Spring (2006) for flute, viola, soprano and piano), NICHOLAS S. OMICCIOLI (University of Missouri, Kansas City) builds relationships between instruments as if they were one single sonic body that breathes and transforms together. «Most of the music that I write is acoustic chamber music. This comes from the need to work more closely with individual players and being able to spend more time in rehearsal with them than I would with large ensembles. It also gives me a chance to experiment with things that I wouldn’t be able to do with larger groups.» (N. Omiccioli) Currently a doctoral student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Omiccioli has had a significant number of performances of his works around the world. He studies composition with James Mobberley, Chen Yi, Paul Rudy, and Zhou Long and has previously studied with João Pedro Oliveira and Brian Bevelander. Speaking about some influences that characterize his music as being “European centered” Omiccioli commented: «My intent is that I want to write the kind of music I would enjoy listening to. It comes from wide variety of composers that influence me. American composers such as George Crumb and Elliott Carter to Europeans like Pierre Boulez, Helmut Lachenmann, and Salvatore Sciarrino. I am also not afraid to incorporate some of my early influences from jazz and heavy metal – not so much in a crossover sense, but regarding aspects of improvisation into the composition process or incorporating the energy from heavy metal.» (N. Omiccioli) During the 2011 highSCORE concerts, two of his more recent works were performed: Danza di fuoco (2008, rev. 2011) for guitar, and Reach (2011) for string quartet in which some new interests appear. «I think I
always need some kind of melody. It comes from listening to oldies and Motown because all those melodies are so strong and memorable they just stick with you. That is something I still incorporate. The sound world I create is dark and it comes from working with extremes of human emotion. For example, one of my recent pieces, Reach for string quartet, was influenced by Mount Everest and people who go through hell in order to climb it. The threat of death is constantly present and can come at any minute. If you happen to freeze to death, there is no way to get your body off the mountain. So if you die on Everest, you're there forever. This puts such a strong imagine in my mind as a composer.» (N. Omiccioli) His work list includes various other compositions which are still worksin-progress: Insights No. 2 (2010) for solo piano, New Work (2010) for string quartet and piano, and Cries From Oblivion (2010) for flute, violoncello, and piano. For Omiccioli, the music is «always evolving and the process takes me a long time to figure out. Sometimes a certain type of material just isn't working with a process I'm using. Each piece gets closer and closer to what I want to accomplish but I'm sure it will take my whole career to actually figure out.» (N. Omiccioli) In the vast panorama of compositional poetics, French spectral music and composers such as Gérard Grisey, Tristan Murail, and Hugues Dufourt, are often models for young composers. There are traces of this influence in the works of Alican Camci, Riho Maimets, Nicholas Omiccioli, Yonatan Cna’an, and others. However, in Omiccioli’s works it originated from his fascination with Witold Lutosławski and the vertical sonorities he used to generate pitch materials. «In my own writing, I am interested in artificial and synthetic constructs similar to what Lutosławski was doing, unlike Gérard Grisey’s and Tristan Murail’s processes; both used computers to analyze true sound spectrums. I have also been using numerical processes in order to generate rhythms. Rather than being hypercritical on every aspect, I can create a process that helps me generate material so I only have to think about the overall form of the piece.» (N. Omiccioli) ETHAN BRAUN (Peabody Conservatory) is a composer and pianist currently living and working in Los Angeles, California. Braun has broad experience in numerous musical settings spanning multiple genres; experiences that inform his overall compositional approach. His formal education in jazz and classical piano, and his improvised work with
members of the Khalia collective in Los Angeles are the principal influences on his current work. In his early Reflect: Moto Perpetuo (2009) for violin and percussion, elements of a continuous movement, an increasing momentum that explores harmonic and melodic space, is evident: «Reflect: Moto Perpetuo was initially conceived as a study in extremely limited harmonic motion and the exploration of certain sixnote harmonies. It evolved into a study of perpetual motion harmonic, rhythmic, and a sort of topographic study, in which there is a play on layers which interact with each other, though seeming to be at varying degrees of "distance" away from the listener. Positioning of the performers should reflect this, with the violinist closest to the audience, and subsequently the crotales then cymbals and gongs being at furthering distances away from the audience.» (E. Braun) He has participated in masterclasses with John Adams, Frederic Rzewski, and William Bolcom. Braun is currently pursuing his MM in composition at the Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. He is active in the Peabody Jazz orchestra under Bassist Michael Formanek and is a student of Oscar Bettison In works such as Untitled (2011) for string quartet, a huge energy is present in shaping the instrumental gesture, while in Machine Dream ~ in memoriam (2010) for solo piano (both works were performed during the 2011 highSCORE Concerts) the more rarefied temporal dimension gives the sound-objects, melodic shapes as well as rhythmic percussive noise pattern, a more improvisational and reflexive atmosphere. Braun also focuses on the intersection of certain extra-musical influences in music, and has written on the impacts of semiotics, psychoanalytics, and postmodernism, all of which are reflected in his music. As a trumpet player, BRYCE D. FUHRMAN (Shenandoah Conservatory) has developed a predilection for works employing wind instruments, exploring the sonic possibilities of this rich sound world quite successfully. His work Aurora 1.0 (2011) for horn and tape was premiered at the highSCORE Festival. This and other works such as Children’s Games for flute, clarinet, and bassoon (2009), Prelude and Fugue for flute, violin, 2 violas, and 2 cellos (2010), and Trubka, a fanfare for three trumpets (2010), reflect his fascination for winds. In his recent composition, Arcs for trumpet and piano (2011), the interest is linked to more structural and formal questions: «The title Arcs refers to arches of thematic, tonal, and structural material that run throughout the piece. The first movement is in a shortened ternary (arch) form: A B a’.
[…]The second movement, “Echoes”, was inspired by Luciano Berio’s Sequenza X for trumpet, in which the trumpeter plays into the piano strings, causing sympathetic vibrations. The same technique is employed in Echoes. The trumpet plays basically two types of material in the movement: chordal gestures and melodic gestures. The chordal gestures are outlines of harmonies that have occurred in the first movement or will occur in the third movement. […] The final movement, like the first movement, and is in an arch form with an introduction (A B A). The introductory material transitions from the slow, free Echoes into the stately and martial A theme of Last.» (B. D. Fuhrman) Two of the chamber music concerts at the 2011 highSCORE Festival, July 12 and July 13, provided an opportunity for the audience to encounter several Italian composers from the Conservatory of Bolzano: ANDREA BEGGIO and FEDERICO CAMPANA. Campana shows highly defined personal poetic that evolved from his experience working in film making and film music. Beggio's poetic results from experiences with electronic music and ensemble “controfase”, which was presented during the previous edition of the highSCORE Concert Series, and which was recently involved in various sonorisation of mute films. Their works for string quartet (Beggio’s Mechanische Studie based on Bach’s Prelude in c minor and Campana’s Adagio) explore gradual harmonic transformations supported by ostinato-like rhythmic figures. 31st and Charlotte (2011) for string quartet by American composer MACKENZIE COPP (University of Missouri), took on a more narrative character. Her Children’s Afternoon (2004), three movements for solo piano, was also performed. During the Composers’ Colloquium, Copp introduced The Retaliation of the Defenestrated (2010) for String Quartet and Guitar, a work that was performed at the 2010 highSCORE Festival. The exploration of the rich possibilities for new works for string quartet, directly or indirectly linked to the activity of the highSCORE New Music Center, can be demonstrated with mention of a work from 2010 highSCORE Prize winner JENNY BECK (Rutgers University), one or many wolves (2011) for string quartet and electric guitar.12 The work was 12
For an introduction to the Beck’s string quartet see the booklet text published in Quintets. A more general introduction to Beck’s work can be found in INGRID PUSTIJANAC, Composing today – Interview with composers of the highSCORE Festival 2010, pp. 45-46.
presented by the composer during the Composersâ€™ Colloquium. It was commissioned by the highSCORE New Music Center as part of a string quintet monographic CD. The CD also included [composition] for 5 (2011) by Jeremy Vaughan, EDGE (2011) by Mark Buller, Fontane Veneziane â€“ Corale #45 (2011) by Giovanni Albini, and Saint Quarrelsome (2009) by Elisabeth Kennedy Bayer. (revised by Jeremy Vaughan)
THEORETICAL ASPECTS OF WRITING MUSIC
THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY? ON DANGEROUS LIAISONS BETWEEN OPERA, CURRENT AFFAIRS AND CINEMA Paolo Giorgi In today’s frenetic world, in the era of the global village and multimedia, we are bombarded by more and more information, updates and feedback of any sort as each day passes. The process by which events become news is ever more immediate, thanks to the digital neorevolution that we have been experiencing for the last few decades. News in turn is transformed not only into digital objects but also into books, movies, TV series and stage plays. Though the technical means may be new, the phenomenon itself is surely much older. The link between ‘higher’ forms of culture and events occurring in the contemporary world (what we commonly call ‘current affairs’) is a type of relationship which, in the field of opera, presents quite a rich history. In the present text the intention is not to provide a mere exhaustive catalogue of all the specific cases (which would be impossible to do, and may well prove useless), but rather to provide an interpretative key which to allow the theme of current affairs to be confronted diachronically. Through examples taken from eras and repertoires that are distant from one another we will better see how attitudes towards the historical, cultural and political context has often (and often still is) a source of inspiration for librettos and operas which have sought (and seek) to leave their mark in contemporary history. 1) The first broad type that will be focused upon is an opera’s relationship with one or more precise events (often of a political nature) of great resonance for the opera’s era. The references created are explicit in nature, if the librettist (in league with the composer) chooses to adhere to the real historical dynamics of the event being represented, maintaining the setting and the names of the characters. This is the case, for example, of Nixon in China, an opera by the minimalist composer John Adams on a libretto by Alice Goodman, which portrays the journey of the then President of the USA in China in 1972, culminating in his historic meeting with
Mao Tse-tung.13 The dramaturgy of the libretto, a noteworthy text from the literary point of view, demonstrates how much craftsmanship and secure dramaturgical sense could be derived from a subject which, in and of itself, is unusual for the theatre. The project of writing an opera inspired by the foreign policy of the USA was born of the fervid imagination of Peter Sellars, who passed the idea to the composer John Adams and to the writer Alice Goodman. In writing the libretto, Goodman carried out indepth historical research, consulting a vast quantity of audio-visual material, radio interviews and journalistic articles. This is further reflected in the utterly mediatic nature of the production, actively sought by all three creators of the opera: we are induced to experience the performance in the same way in which we would experience a TV program, thanks to the time frame and rhythm of events on the stage and to precise references to contemporary audio-visual culture. The opera was premièred October 22 1987 at the Grand Opera Theater of Boston, with the dramaturgical direction of Peter Sellars, and received generally positive reviews from critics, for having been able to reveal both the epic and the human side of contemporary politics. This stylistic characteristic of many Peter Sellars productions is, for example, also evident in his production of Georg Friedrich Handel’s Giluio Cesare in Egitto in 1987, in which the events (originally set in Egypt during the Great Roman Civil War between Caesar and Pompey in 45 BC) were set in an imaginary journey to the Middle East made by the President of the USA (the post-modern Nemesis of Julius Caesar). The opera assumed highly symbolic meaning regarding the events of the time and of the near future (the Gulf War was soon to break out), and Sellars was able to better involve the audience of the production in the first person. Considerations of another nature are instead implied if the references to current events are less explicit in the text of the libretto, and become clear only at a second level of reading. This is typically the case of many allegorical librettos of that part of Baroque musical theatre which is linked to the courts of the nobility or to patronage: since the composer and the librettist in that phase of history were not yet autonomous professions, but were employed by a patron (be he a nobleman or simply rich), they could not afford to directly name contemporary historical 13
For further reading, see 'Nixon in China': John Adams in Conversation with Andrew Porter, «Tempo», New Series, No. 167, 1988), pp. 25-30, and 'Nixon in China': An Interview with Peter Sellars and Matthew Daines, «Tempo», New Series, No. 197, 1996, pp. 12-19.
figures, to avoid irksome diplomatic difficulties. We must not forget that opera and oratorio (the two main forms of musical drama in the Baroque era) were performed for a broader public which included nobles and high ranking individuals, who could easily have misunderstood, and therefore the secondary meanings in the texts of the librettos had to remain allusive and implicit. Two examples of this phenomenon are emblematic of the level of nuance that could be achieved in this category. Juditha Triumphans devicta Holofernes barbarie (1716) is the sole surviving oratorio of the four Antonio Vivaldi is known to have composed. The Ospedale della Pietà (the famous Venetian home for foundlings) was one of the most active institutions in promoting the genre of oratorio; an oratorio’s performers (including instruments players) were recruited exclusively from the girls and the women in the Ospedale’s charge. These figlie di coro (Lit. Daughters of the Choir – we might term them ‘chorus girls’) performed to great public acclaim at lavish services held in the chapels, musical excellence being viewed by the governors as a good means of attracting donations and legacies. For Juditha Triumphans the Pietà chose as librettist a professional (perhaps a lawyer or doctor) from the Venetian mainland named Giacomo Cassetti. He adopted the more modern approach to the genre ‘oratorio’ in which there is no narrator (historicus). As in opera, the action advances solely through the words and implied actions of the characters themselves, thus clearly achieving a higher degree of realism and immediacy. The story tells of the Jewish heroin Judith and how she managed to save her home city Bethulia, besieged by Assiyrians, by seducing the warlord Holofernes and then killing him. Apparently just a biblical synopsis, the topical nature of the story is revealed if it is related to specific Venetian circumstances of the time. Since 1714 the Republic had been at war with its old adversary, the Ottoman empire. 1716 saw two decisive (and, for Venice, highly favourable) encounters: the victory of the Christian allies led by Prince Eugene at Petrovaradin (Serbia), August 5, and the relief of the Venetian island fortress of Corfu, gateway to the Adriatic, August 22. Cassetti used the confrontation between Jews and Assyrians as an allegory of that between Venetians and Turks, providing the readers of his libretto with a ‘key’ in the form of a separate poem:
Carmen allegoricum Praesens est Bellum, Saeviminantur, & hoste: ADRIA JUDITHA est, et socia ABRA FIDES, BETHULIA ECCLESIA, OZIAS summusque Sacerdos Christiadum Coetus, Virgineumque Decus, Rex Turcarum Holofernes, dux Eunuchus, et omnis Hinc Victrix VENETUM quam bene Classis erit.
Here Cassetti explains thus that Judith represents Venice (under its convetional pseudonym of ‘Adria’); her handmaiden, Abra, represents Christian faith; Bethulia, the besieged city, represents the Church; its governor, Ozias, is the Pope; the Assyrian warlord Holofernes is the Ottoman Sultan; his steward Vagaus is a Turkish general (perhaps to be equated with the redoubtable Ali Pasha, killed at Petrovaradin). In such a case one could afford to render the allegorical equivalences explicit (though hidden in an obscure poem in Latin) not only because the Venetian victory over the Turkish fleet had been an event to celebrate, but also because there was surely no risk of offending the defeated Turks and causing a diplomatic incident.14 A case which, from some points of view, is similar, but in which the allegory is hidden to an even greater degree, is that of La lantern di Diogene, an opera on a libretto by Nicolò Minato with music by Antonio Draghi, which was perfomed in Vienna in 1674. It narrates a complex story of political and military intrigues between Alexander the Great and King Darius of Persia, with the interaction of many other historical figures, including Diogene, the cynical philosopher of the title. What is interesting about this text is the fact that it is probably the most emblematic example of allegorical librettos from that era: thanks to certain precious 14
See MICHAEL TALBOT, How Operatic is Vivaldi’s “Juditha Triumphans”? in MELANIA BUCCIARELLI - BERTA JONCUS (ed.), Music as Social and Cultural Practice: Essays in Honour of Reinhard Strohm, Woodbridge, The Boydell Press, 2007, pp. 214-231, and Introduction, in ANTONIO VIVALDI, Juditha Triumphans, critical edition by MICHAEL TALBOT, Milano, Ricordi, 2008, pp. XXVII-XL.
documents (the so called libretti a chiave – Lit. ‘key books’)15 it is possible to solve the riddle of the metaphor and understand the links with Hapsburg politics of the time. The contrasts between Alexander and Darius represent none other than the tense relationship between the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I and King Louis XIV of France, surrounded by their respective courts. The philosopher Diogene is supposedly none other than the librettist himself who, in the guise of a stoic and scorning philosopher, can take the liberty of expressing caustic judgments upon the political situation. Note that, in any case, the circulation of the libretti a chiave postdates the production considerable, once again confirming the fact that diplomatic caution was one of the main concerns of an artistic form (opera) for which the presence of multiple layers of meaning was a motive for the quality of the work itself. As already seen, this prudishness totally disappeared in the second half of the 20th Century. Indeed, opera today continues to represent political figures and events uncensored, as demonstrated by Mark-Anthony Turnage’s 2011 opera Anna Nicole, based on the life of Playboy starlet Anne Nicole Smith,16 or by the opera that René Ertomaa is writing on Silvio Berlusconi.17 2) The second type of relationship between opera and the present makes us of what might be termed cultural fads, meaning all of those phenomena which catapult a particular theme, subject, book, topic or reflection to the attention of the masses. The first example is mesmerism, a curious medical technique proposed by the German doctor Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815), based on his conviction in the existence of a physical fluid called ‘animal magnetism’, which he believed permeated the entire universe (including living beings) and fluctuated within the bodies of living things and from one living being to another. According to this principle, diseases were thought to be caused by the disorderly fluctuation of this ‘universal fluid’: Mesmer therefore elaborated a therapeutic method essentially based on the application of magnets to parts of the body of the ill, so that the force of the magnet could influence the ‘magnetic fluid’ present in the organism and channel it in an orderly fashion to the sick parts. It was almost a form of ante litteram ‘magnetic shock therapy’. 15
See HERBERT SEIFERT, Die oper am Wiener Kaiserhof im 17. Jahrhundert, Tutzing, Schneider, 1985, pp. 247-267. See MICHAEL WHITE, A Tabloid Star is Joining the Sisterhood of the Fallen, «The New York Times», 02/11/2011, and ANTHONY TOMMASINI, Va-Va-Voom Goes the Soprano, «New York Times», 02/19/2011. See the comment on René Ertomaas’s opera Marionette, in this volume.
Mesmer had already conceived of these ideas from the start of his university career, but it was during the years that he spent in Vienna (17681778) and Paris (1778-1793) that he wholly elaborated his theory in his Mémoire sur la découverte du magnétisme animal (1779). In spite of the fact that his ideas were subsequently discredited (by, amongst others, the famous scientist Benjamin Franklin), at the time Mesmer’s theories struck a chord very strongly not only within the medical community, but also in the public imagination and in popular culture. Wherever he went, Mesmer was swiftly surrounded by crowds of would-be patients (of every social class), and numerous imitators of his therapeutic method also sprung up like mushrooms. One of the most curious examples which demonstrate this phenomenon is the direct reference to mesmerism present in Così fan tutte (1790), composed by Wolfgang A. Mozart on a libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte. Between Mozart and Mesmer there was a long standing relationship of mutual awareness and esteem, which began in march 1768 during a Viennese soirée at the home of Prince Dimitri Alekseevic Galitzin where Mozart conducted a new symphony (K 45), and to which Mesmer had been invited. Quite a close friendship was born between the Mozart family and the doctor, to the point that Mesmer subsequently acted as private patron to Mozart on several occasions. For example, the première performance of the singspiel Bastien und Bastienne K 50 was held at Mesmer’s Vienna residence, October 1 1768. Years later, Mesmer inspired Mozart to compose for the glassarmonica, which the doctor used during post-therapeutic treatment to relax patients with the ethereal and pure tones produced by this curious instrument. Turning back to the topic of Così fan tutte, Da Ponte (surely acting upon Mozart’s suggestion), inserted a citation on mesmerism into the comic finale of Act One. Ferrando and Guglielmo, disguised as ‘Albanian noblemen’ on Alfonso’s suggestion, pretend to poison themselves in order to move the inflexible Fiordiligi and Dorabella. They send their maid Despina in search of help, and soon enough a doctor arrives: the very same Despina in disguise, with all the characteristics typical of the figure of the doctor, including incomprehensible vocabulary rife with pseudo-Latin and the tools of the trade. Among these latter a ‘ferro’ (iron) stands out, which is none other than a Mesmerian magnet. As the stage instructions indicate, Despina “touches the heads of the feigned invalids with the magnet and gently draws it the length of their bodies”. Mozart and Da Ponte do not stop here, but make the reference to Mesmer and his success even more explicit through a comment made by Despina:
This is a piece of magnet, the stone which the great Doctor Mesmer discovered in Germany and then became so famous in France.18
The spasms provoked by the ‘shock therapy’ are also described: Look, they're moving, twisting, shaking! They'll hit their heads on the ground in a moment.19
The effect is clearly exhilarating on stage, tank to the parodic twist given by Despina’s disguise. It is the very fact that Mozart and Da Ponte chose to use a reference to a cultural phenomenon as a comical ruse that demonstrates once more just how wide spread and well known the phenomenon itself must have been, otherwise the comic vibe would not have been so strong. Another case with some affinity can be found in all those librettos which are adaptations of books and other literary works. This phenomenon surely arose hand in hand with opera itself (consider the references to the epic poems of Ariosto and Tasso that permeate Baroque operas), but which becomes central to operatic production from the 19th century onwards, when the literary form of the novel began to establish itself as a mirror of society. New subgenres came into existence, such as the historical novel (codified by the works of Walter Scott and Friedrich Schiller) or the protest novel (more or less explicit) that railed against bourgeois society. Such novels achieved incredible popularity, and the operatic world did not wait long before drawing them into its 18
Questo è quel pezzo / di calamita, / pietra mesmerica, / ch'ebbe l'origine / nell'Alemagna, / che poi sì celebre / là in Francia fu. Come si muovono, / torcono, scuotono! / In terra il cranio / presto percuotono.
productions. Among the most famous examples we find Verdi and Piave’s La Traviata (1853, adapted from Dumas), Bizet and Meilhac-Halévy’s Carmen (1875, adapted from Mérimée) and Puccini, Illica and Giacosa’s La Bohéme (1896, adapted from Murger). All of these cases caused great stirs in public opinion, not only because they were all adapted from bestsellers and were therefore well known to audiences, but also because they portrayed 19th Century European society in a realistic (and at times crude, uncensored) manner. Scandal, though transfigured by theatrical techniques, became a tool of social condemnation.20 These operas which made people reflect, and this is one of the reasons why still today these and many others maintain intact their dramatic force and capacity to enchant audiences. The trend progressed into the 1900s (consider Debussy’s Pelléas et Melisande, or Berg’s Wozzeck), and continued strongly throughout the century, often featuring direct relationships between composer and writer that were not only ‘literary’. This is the case of Benjamin Britten operas like Billy Budd (based on a short story by Herman Melville and adapted by E. M. Forster) or Un re in ascolto by Luciano Berio (on an idea by Italo Calvino). All things considered, it was inevitable this trend should have occurred, given that the education of a librettist was (in all eras) that of an intellectual immersed in the complex cultural context of their times, whose stimuli could not help but lead to rich inter-textual networks.21 3) The third and last macro-category identified concerns all of those themes that are social and political (in the broad sense of the word) and which have come to be reflected in the phenomenon of opera. Clearly this is almost an intermediate category with respect to the previous two, given the fact that whilst it does deal with events of the recent past, it is not limited to individual political facts nor to the individual case of an individual book, but examines broader issues from broader perspectives. One of the most interesting facets of this category is the study of how the origin and development of an operatic subgenre can come to reflect the social trends of a given era. For example, it is possible to relate comic opera in the second half of the 18th Century to the historical instances sur20
For further reading on this general topic, see ROBERTO RUSSI, Letteratura e musica, Roma, Carocci, 2005, and HERBERT LINDENBERGER, Situating opera: period, genre, reception, Cambridge-New York, Cambridge University Press, 2010. See FABRIZIO DELLA SETA, The Librettist, in LORENZO BIANCONI – GIORGIO PESTELLI (ed.), The History of Italian Opera, Part II: Opera Production and Its Resources, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2001.
rounding the French Revolution. From the 1750s onwards, intellectuals and opera composers had sought out new dramatic forms with respect to the used and abused form of Metastasian opera seria. In particular, they had been looking for realistic ways to represent characters, situations and emotions, rejecting the system of ancien régime conventions that had been typical of opera since its inception. One of the most profound innovators of 18th Century dramaturgy and theatre was undoubtedly the Italian Carlo Goldoni (1707-1793), whose plays contain close at hand descriptions of all of the turbulent changes occurring in a society that had begun to consider the system of aristocratic privileges to be restrictive, and was aspiring toward a more democratic treatment of individuals. Conscious of the conflicts that could arise between the various social classes, Goldoni demonstrated how any person could achieve success regardless of their birth, through honor and reputation in the face of public opinion.22 The libretto that Goldoni wrote for the composer Niccolò Piccinni, Cecchina, ossia la buona figliola (1759), is emblematic of this aspect. It is adapted from Samuel Richardson’s novel Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded (1740). The story demonstrates how a love story between the Marchese della Conchiglia and Cecchina (a simple gardener) can triumph over social conventions, represented on the one hand by the Marchese’s intrusive sister and on the other by Cecchina’s jealous colleagues. This is exactly the same spirit which permeates Mozart and Da Ponte’s Le nozze di Figaro (1789): adapting the subject from a ‘revolutionary drama’ by Beaumarchais (1778), the plot demonstrates how it is the often the most humble characters that are animated by the noblest sentiments, to the exact contrary of the social classes. In these examples the social forces which led to the French Revolution just a few years hence are clearly seen in foment. To give an example that are closer to us in time and sensibility, we can consider the 1995 production of Georg Friedrich Handel’s Theodora by Peter Sellars, a director who made the transformation of current affairs into art his mission.23 The original plot deals with the Roman persecution of Christians in Syria in the 4th Century AD, and of how one of the Roman soldiers (Dydimus) converted from paganism to Christianity after meeting Theodora, the spiritual guide 22
For further reading on Goldoni and his relations with the music and society of his time, see DOMENICO PIETROPAOLO (ed.), Goldoni and the musical theatre, New York, Legas, 1995, and MAGGIE GÜNSBERG, Playing with gender: the comedies of Goldoni, Leeds (UK), Northern Universities Press, 2001. For Sellars own academic contribution to the issue, see PETER SELLARS and BONNIE MARRANCA, Performance and Ethics: Questions for the 21st Century, «PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art» , 27/1, 2005, pp. 36-54.
of the Christian community. In the last scene, after being discovered by the Roman governor, the two are condemned to death and killed in front of the entire community. Sellars transforms the Christians into members of the pacifist movement, oppressed by the tyrannic American/Roman military machine, and the execution is represented as a lethal injection, an image which looms very strongly in the Western imagination (and in particular that of Americans). In this way Sellars made reference to the thenrecent debate about the death penalty that had occurred in the United States and had led other artists to assume strong moral stances, for example Tim Robbins in the film Dead Man Walking with Susan Sarandon (inspired in turn by the autobiographical novel of Sister Helen Prejean). Jake Heggie would later write an opera on the same subject, and with the same name, on a libretto by Terrence McNally, premièred in San Francisco in 2000. Even closer to us in time is the case of The Refuge (2007), an opera by Christopher Theofanidis on a libretto by Leah Lax, commissioned by the Houston Grand Opera and premièred in 2007. This opera represents scenes from the lives of various ethnic communities that have established themselves in Houston over the last 15 years. It is divided into 7 scenes, in each of which the librettist portrays a different community (from Mexican to Vietnamese, from Russian to Indian) and describes their efforts to integrate into the American society of today whilst maintaining their own identity. The goal of commissioning the opera was precisely to contribute to the city’s civil commitment to the integration of immigrants into the social fabric of Houston, and it contributed to a much wider social and political program aimed at the solution of this difficult problem.24 4) As this essay has attempted to demonstrate, there are many ways in which a complex art form such as opera can try, and succeed, in creating strict ties to the fleeting category of current affairs. It is, however, possible refer back to contemporary theories dealing with the cinema in order to derive an hypothesis that adequately captures the diverse phenomena described above. The cinema, even more than opera, cannot help but deal with the historical context in which it is created. It is well known how cinema criticism has created a specific term (instant movie) to designate those films which ride on the back of the success of literary works, of cultural phenomena, of political events or of anything that has particularly struck public opinion. It is easy to find examples in any genre, from the Harry Potter saga to the Twilight saga or the films based on the events 24
See HENRY FOGEL, Immigrant Songs, «Symphony», 2007, pp. 38-45.
of September 11, 2001. Can the concept of ‘instantness’ be extended also to the field of opera? In my opinion it can, even though it is necessary to bear in mind some considerations relative to the diverse artistic statutes of the two genres. Certainly opera has, since its inception, been able to reach an extremely broad public and thereby acquire incredible communicative force to a degree that would be unthinkable for other artistic media. This is one of the reasons why cinema has often been termed the heir of opera, one the plane of success with audiences, commercial success and worldwide diffusion. It is therefore possible to search in the history of opera for embryonic phenomena which were only later fully developed through audiovisual and multimedia art, such as the cinema. The phenomenon of references (more or less direct in nature) to present events must be listed among these ‘foretastes’. A theoretical subdivision that is necessary within the genre (if such we dare call it) of instant operas is the distinction between operas composed before and after the advent of the cinema. This is due to a simple reason: it was precisely audiovisual technology (whose history begins with the Lumière brothers’ ‘moving pictures’) that made the potential ‘instantness’ in opera effective, given that it adopts the modes of narrative presentation used in film and television culture. The plot of Nixon in China becomes recognizable and above all believable because it seems like a documentary, and is perceived as an alternative form of telling the mediatic events. Or, once again, the profound drama inherent in the death sentence of Dydimus and Theodora was perceived because it reminded its audience of a scene witnessed often, too often, on the screen. The fact that our way of experiencing art in relation to reality has been definitively changed is by now clear. If, at the beginning of the last century, the cinema was welcomed as a reproduction of reality and it created shock waves precisely because it ‘seemed real’, on the contrary today any news item is rendered more credible and trustworthy only if broadcasted, and it becomes true only if it ‘seems like a film’ (the events of September 11, 2001 are emblematic). In conclusion in a pre-cinematic era opera was able to create close ties of varying kinds with current affairs, with means and aims that were equally varied. The advent of cinema changed everything, and what had seemed to be a simple mirroring of social and cultural phenomena with an art form acquired much weightier significance, because the importance and the communicative power of audiovisual media is much greater in the eyes of modernity. Films have modified the epistemological paradigm of
art, making a global revolution of all artistic languages necessary, a phenomenon that many European intellectuals (in particular Walter Benjamin) had already foreseen in the 1930s.25 Opera, too, was able to recreate itself throughout the course of the last century, and continues to do so, in the ways that we have spoken of. For this very reason it is still a wide spread genre, in spite of all those who think that opera is nothing more than a museum piece today.
See in particular the essay by WALTER BENJAMIN The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility (in The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility, and Other Writings on Media, Harvard, Harvard University Press, 2008).
THE ORGANIZATION OF SOUND-SPACE IN PAUSE DEL SILENZIO (SEVEN SYMPHONIC EXPRESSIONS) BY GIAN FRANCESCO MALIPIERO26 Francesco Molmenti Since it received its première performance (January 27, Teatro Augusteo, Rome, directed by Bernardino Molinari), Pause del silenzio has enjoyed a certain consideration. It was considered to be «one of the finest orchestral works created in Europe in the last ten years»27 by the Italian musical avant-garde of the time, first and foremost by Alfredo Casella. However, early supporters of Malipiero’s music analyzed certain technical and formal aspects of his compositions and revealed certain characteristics which would seem to indicate a presumed ‘Italian-ness’ of some formulae and compositional procedures. At the same time, these studies understated the importance of other characteristics which would have highlighted the works indebtedness to the great European maestros of the time, above all with regard to works from the composer’s student years and early mature phase. Some of these considerations are easily ascribed to a (programmatic or subconscious?) tendency to promote the uniqueness of the Italian musical avant-garde. Alfredo Casella himself, in defining fundamental aspects of Malipiero’s formal language, minimizes the influence of his better known European colleagues on Malipiero’s education: «With regards Debussy and Ravel, his harmony is equally independent, as it is never based on dominant ninths, nor is it based on the eleventh harmonic, and even though his music does indeed make use of the concurrent penetration into various tonalities, et remains different to anything composed by Strawinsky […]. Nothing remains of French harmonic impressionism (if we exclude a few planed perfect chords, of a vaguely Debussyian flavour) and neither do we find dominant eleventh chords. […] Another
This article summarises some aspects of my Bachelor’s Degree thesis, of the title Gian Francesco Malipiero, Pause del silenzio (1917), Analisi delle techniche compositive, presented at the Faculty of Musicology of Cremona (University of Pavia), 2008. ALFREDO CASELLA, Le musiche nuove dell’Augusteo, «Ars nova», II/3 (1918), p. 3.
of Malipiero’s merits is that he has never employed the exceedingly poor and slovenly whole-tone scale.»28 Although I agree with some of Casella’s insights,29 I propose to demonstrate not only that Malipiero uses in some sections the ‘exceedingly poor and slovenly whole-tone scale’, but also that the relationship with certain Debussyian, Ravelian and, above all, Stravinskyian techniques and sensibilities, is stronger and more metabolized than we have hitherto been led to believe. Through the analysis of one of the finest and most fundamental works in Malipiero’s immense legacy, I propose to discuss certain critical clichés traditionally associated with his compositional methods (first and foremost the presumed improvisational nature of his music), and simultaneously suggest some keys to analyzing aspects which are normally neglected, in particular concerning the vertical dimension (harmony) and the sound system of reference.
«Nei riguardi di Debussy e Ravel, la sua armonia è altrettanto indipendente, non basandosi essa mai sulle none dominanti maggiori e nemmeno sull’undicesimo armonico, e se anche questa musica pratica correntemente la compenetrazione di varie tonalità, rimane però sostanzialmente diversa da qualsiasi Strawinsky […]. Nulla rimane dell’armonia impressionistica francese (se eccettuiamo alcuni parallelismi di accordi perfetti, di lontano sapore debussiano) e nemmeno si trovano accordi di undicesima dominante maggiore. […] Un altro merito di Malipiero è quello di non aver mai adoperato la poverissima e sciatta scala per toni interi.» ALFREDO CASELLA, Il linguaggio di G.F. Malipiero, in L’Opera di Gian Francesco Malipiero, edited by Gino Scarpa, Canova, Treviso 1952, p. 129. Concerning many aspects, Casella makes extremely lucid and punctual considerations regarding Malipiero’s compositional style: «[…] above all, he is able to create a new tonal atmosphere with continual contrasts and clashes between modality and diverging tonal centers of gravity, thus determining a tonal uncertainty, and modal instability […]. Malipiero frequently uses chords of superimposed fourths […] he does not renounce to the cult of consonance and the triad when his are requie it […] This harmony is essentially anti-Romantic […] purified of any 19th Century chromatic residues. From his music not only dominant ninths but also dominant sevenths with cadential function are eliminated.» [(…)riesce sopratutto a creare una nuova atmosfera tonale con continui contrasti e urti fra modalità e gravitazioni tonali divergenti, determinando così una incertezza tonale, una instabilità modale […]. Malipiero usa frequentemente accordi di quarte sovrapposte […] non rinuncia al culto della consonanza e dell’accordo perfetto quando la sua arte lo richiede. […] Questa armonia è essenzialmente antiromantica […] pura di ogni residuo cromatico ottocentesco. Da essa sono eliminate non solamente […] le none maggiori di dominate ma persino le settime di dominante in funzione cadenzale.] (CASELLA, Il linguaggio, p. 129).
Some issues linked to the overall form of the work will first be discussed.30 Pause del silenzio is composed of seven panels of contrasting nature.31 The compositional techniques used in the construction of the harmonies are extremely heterogeneous. The individual ‘Expressions’ are conceived as overlappings of musical material of varying types (simple melodic lines, canons, pedals, rhythmic ostinatos, etc), organized according to diverse levels of complexity (from a melody accompanied by a pedal tone to the polyrythmic overlapping of complex blocks). The nature of each overlap is strictly tied to the sound system of reference: sections alternate in which the sounds can be traced back to modal configurations of seven notes, or in which polytonal overlapping is not anchored to a single, stable sound system of reference. Table 1 summarizes the compositional techniques and the sound systems employed. As far as the formal aspect is concerned, the individual symphonic Expressions can be reduced to an ABA’ ternary form. The problematic nature of this generalization must, however, be clarified, as it risks becoming a misleading simplification. The first problem concerns the nature of the B section: in many cases it contrasts with the A section due to one compositional aspect alone (often the sound system of reference), maintaining a certain level of similarity in the other aspects. In the same 30
Terminology used in this essay is derived from the composer’s description of the work (GIAN FRANCESCO MALIPIERO, Catalogo annotato, in L’Opera, pp. 224-5); in particolar each of the macro divisions which form Pause del silenzio are referred to as ‘Expressions’, and are numbered in Roman numerals (Ex. I = the first Expression, etc. An alternative term used is ‘panel’); ‘Squillo’ (Lit. ‘trumpet/horn blast’), the thematic incisions between the Expressions ‘Squillo’. The individual Expressions are defined by the composer as follows: I. Pastorale; II. Fra lo scherzo e la danza (Lit. Between joking and dancing); III. Una Serenata; IV. Una ridda tumultuosa (Lit. A tumultuous dance); V. Un’elegia funebre (Lit. A Funeral Elegy); VI. Una fanfara (Lit. A Fanfare); VII. Un fuoco di ritmi violenti (Lit. A fire of violent rhythms). Additional information on the work is also present: the time of composition (Rome, April 1917 – Crespano del Grappa, June 1971), the dedication (“to Bernardino Molinari”), the instrumentation (2/3 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabasson, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, bass tuba; timpani, bass drum, cymbals, basque drum, marching drum, castagnettes, triangle, carillon, xilophone; celesta; harp; strings), the duration (approx. 16 minutes) and the edition of the score (Universal, Vienna 1919). The macro-structure of the composition is influenced by the superstitious consideration which linked Malipiero to the number seven. This fact is confirmed by the composer’s own writings and by the catalogue of his works which, at least until the 1970s, is rich in seven-part compositions. (See MALIPIERO, Catalogo annotato, p. 219, 236).
way the A’ section generally constitutes a return to the material exposed in the A section, but in many cases altered elements of the B section are also present. From the technical point of view, the role of the ‘Squillo’ in the formal unfolding of the entire composition must be emphasized. The ‘Squillo’ is repeated at the beginning and after every Expression, starting from the note a semi-tone above the starting tone of the previous ‘Squillo’, following the pattern: e–f–f#-g-a@-a-b@-b. The intervallic framework remains the same (as far as the generic type of interval is concerned) in each transposed repetition of the ‘Squillo’; there is no thematic influence of the ‘Squillo’ on the panels. Example 1 is the opening ‘Squillo’.
Example 1. Squillo I, bars 1-4 (transcription)
TABLE 1 73
From the theoretical point of view, sections based on a single sequence of reference (mode/set) and sections characterized by polytonal /polymodal overlappings can be distinguished. I will analyze a series of exemplary cases in detail. The initial part of the first symphonic Expression (Pastorale, bars 5-11) is a perfect examply of the use of sounds derived from a single heptatonic mode of reference. The harmonic aspect is constituted of a pedal chord (strings and celesta) which provides the background for the canon in the oboe and bassoon. All of the material is derived from a sequence of reference (a–b-c#-d#–e–f-g–a) which cannot be interpreted as a ‘traditional’ mode (Dorian, Phrygian, etc).32 This sequence, which will be used again in various parts of Pause, draws its raison d’être from its particular internal structure, which allows three tritones to co-exist (a-d# / b-f / c#-g).33 This is used in its complete form in the harmonic dimension, organized into layers: the low tones of the pedal chord in overlapping fifths; the opening note of the canon (d#), a repercussio in the true sense; the high tones of the pedal chord; all of which lies between the a1 contrabasses and the a6 of the violins.
Example 2. I. Pastorale. Lento ma non troppo, bars 5-7 (transcription)
In this and in the following cases, independently of the character of the overlappings, harmonies that constitute seventh, ninth, eleventh and thirteenth chords that may occur are to be considered unfettered by 32
We consider the a as the finalis of the mode due to its role as ‘root’ of the pedal chord (it is also the highest note in the chord, and the only note that is doubled) and due to its determining role in the melodic unfolding of the individual voices of the canon. During this analysis this mode, all modes derived from it, and all modes which present the simultaneous presence of three tritones, will be described as the “Pause set”. See also bars 183-190, 195-9 (V. Un’elegia funebre) and 272-3 (VII. Un fuoco di ritmi violenti).
traditional conventions of resolution and voice leading, and are used for purposes of ‘color’. From the point of view of melodic construction, the canon already presents all of the stylistic peculiarities of Malipiero’s melodic writing. These have many characteristics that can be traced back to the composer’s desire to create an ideal nexus with the music of the past and with ‘Gregorian Chant’ in particular.34 The rules applied to melodic writing can be summarized as follows: -
The use of ascending melodic intervals within the range of the fifth (the minor sixth is rare), and of descending melodic intervals within the range of the fourth; The tendency to compensate melodic leaps (intervals of a third and greater) with contrary motion; Step-wise melodic motion is favoured; The overall melodic range is highly restricted, often falling within a fifth, and never exceeds the seventh; There are processes of melodic construction based on the embellishment (often in rapid ‘trills’) of ‘pivot tones’.
This is demonstrated by many of Malipiero’s own statements. For example, in GIAN FRANCESCO MALIPIERO, Ricordi e pensieri, in L’Opera, pp. 285-350, we can read that «Gregorian Chant is an exquisitely national mode of expression, on which the entire edifice of our music should be reconstructed. The catechism of Italian musical art, by basing itself upon Gregorian Chant […] would free us of all prejudices and would put us back on the road of greatness.» [il canto gregoriano è un’espressione squisitamente nazionale, sulla quale dovrebbe ricostruirsi tutto l’edificio della nostra musica. Il catechismo dell’arte musicale italiana, basandosi sul canto gregoriano […] ci libererebbe da tutti i pregiudizi e ci rimetterebbe sulla grande via.] (p. 338). Among the earliest essays to deal with the melodic aspect we wish to highlight LUIGI COLACICCHI, Sulla melodia di Malipiero, in L’Opera, pp. 133-7; although it is outdated in some of its now unacceptable generalizations, it seeks to find the point of contact between Malipiero’s melodic style and the characteristics of Gregorian Chant. In truth, it has also been demonstrated how Malipiero who, though an avid reader, researcher and scholar, was essentially self-taught, did not in reality have any true expertise in the field of ‘Gregorian Chant’ nor with pre-16th Century polyphony. Thus the easily shared conclusion that there existed «no analogy between his music and the essence of the Gregorian modes, which is now unsalvageable from many points of view.» [nessuna analogia tra la sua musica e l’essenza ormai per molti versi irrecuperabile dei modi gregoriani.] (NINO PIRROTTA, Malipiero e il filo d’Arianna, in Malipiero, scrittura e critica, edited by Maria Teresa Murato, Olschki, Firenze 1984, p. 12).
In many cases the nature of the intervals employed represents an innovative component which is integrated with elements derived from the past; and it is in the use of the triton in particular that one of the most typical stylistic feature of the melodic writing can be identified. The canon cited in Example 2 is constructed around the pivot tone a (finalis) and d# (repercussion) which also assume a primary role in harmonic encounters of the melodic lines. However, the presence of the tritone, whether it be harmonic or melodic in nature, is rarely linked to the choice of the sound system of reference (mode, scale, set). The harmonic aspect of the central section of the first panel (Example 3) also proposes the entirety of the tones present in the new mode of reference which, on this occasion, may be retraced to the Aeolian mode constructed on c# (c#-d#-e-f#-g#-a–b-c#). That c# is to be considered the finalis is not incontrevertible: if the upper line, in which the flutes and clarinets expose the antecedent of the canon, is taken as a point of reference, b may be considered the finalis of the homogeneous Mixolydian mode (b–c#-d#-e–f#-g#-a–b). Passages such as this one substantially seem to represent a form of compromise between the sections in which the tonal center (finalis) is extremely clear and sections in which the utter lack of a stable point of reference makes one think of the use of non-polarized pitch-class sets.
Example 3. I. Pastorale. Un poco più mosso, bars 17-8 (transcription)
The sections characterized by so-called ‘pan-diatonicism’ also fall into the this first group of musical constructs, consisting of the harmonic overlapping of all the sounds contained within the mode of reference. 35 The clearest case is presented in Example 4. Once again, the harmonic presentation of the complete sound material of reference occurs through the entry of melodic motifs.36 The ‘dialogue’ between the English horn and the oboe is repeated later by the clarinet and the flute: it is easily noted how the composer seeks the relation of tritone as a harmonic product of the two parts (the subfinalis, f, of the English horn and the finalis, b, of the oboe).
Example 4. III. Una serenata. Non troppo lento, bars 99-106 (transcription) 35
We have used Piston’s definition (used also by Azzaroni, who however preferred the term ‘hyperdiatonicism’) which refers to this type of sound system mostly in the harmonic sense: «Composers were equally cognizant of harmony based on the diatonic scale but not having any specifically intervallic organization. The terms pandiatonicism and white-note harmony have been coined in recognition of the entire spectrum of diatonic harmony that is not limited to chords originating fron triads. [...] Such pandiatonic writing became a strong characteristic of tonal neoclassicism from the early 1920s on, especially among American composers». [armonie che, pur essendo basate sulla scala diatonica, erano prive di una regolare organizzazione intervallare. Per definire l’intero spettro dell’armonia che non si limita agli accordi originati da triadi è stato coniato il termine “pandiatonicismo” […] Questo tipo di diatonismo divenne un’importante caratteristica del neoclassicismo a partire dagli anni Venti, soprattutto tra i compositori americani.] (WALTER PISTON, Armonia, EDT, Torino 1989, pp. 493-4). See also bars 219-22 (VI. Una fanfara) and bars 235-6 (VII. Un fuoco di ritmi violenti).
Malipiero’s pedals are extremely varied in nature. They may be sustained pedal chords and repeated chords,37 or as more complex rhythmic ostinatos, almost figured pedals.38 In many cases the overlapping of small melodic elements as ostinatos is observed, as happens in the first part of panel II, or in the polyrhythmic overlapping in the central section of panel IV (Example 5).
Example 5. IV. Una ridda tumultuosa. Molto più mosso, bars 151-66 (transcription)
In this latter section, too, the role of the tritone (g-c#) in the management of the texture is evident and can be explained by the choice of the mode of reference, c# Locrian (c#-d-e-f#-g-a-b-c#), whose principle tones (finalis and repercussio) are separated by diminished fifth.39 Also the processes of transition from one sound system to another may be varied in nature. The common element is the abandonment of a section characterized by a modally static progression (in other words, a section which uses only the notes of the mode of reference) before shifting into another different, but equally static progression, after having transited a zone of modal ‘endangerment’. The transitory passage may be characterized by schematic movements in the inner parts. We propose and exemplary outline (Table 2) of the movements in panel I between the first section (bars 5-11, characterized by a static progression making use of the 37
For example in I. Pastorale, bars 7-11; III. Una serenata, bars 99-109 and V. Un’elegia funebre, bars 191-4 bars 195-8. There are countless examples: I. Pastorale, bars 17-8; IV. Una ridda tumultuosa, bars 167-76; VI. Una fanfara, bars 219-21. For an authoritative definition of the Locrian mode see HAROLD S. POWERS, Locrian, in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicans, Macmillan, London 1980.
â€˜Pause setâ€™) and the second section (bars 17-18, characterized by an equally static progression in the c# Aeolian mode). The sound material is organized into three groups: 1) Violins I and II and celesta: descending planning of seventh chords of various types (presented in the table in the original inversion); 2) English horn: gathers together the preceding melodic material and melodically leads the transition through the descent of its root notes. 3) Cellos, contrabasses and harp: parallel movement by thirds (bars 114) and by step (bars 14-17) of structures made up of overlapping fifths. The phase of mutation (bar 15), which leads to a break in the recurring pattern and a foretaste of certain sounds belonging to the new stable region (bar 16) is highlighted. The modally stable zones are those in bars 11 and 17.
Table 2 The mirror-image movement of the two groups involved in the modulation is a characteristic which returns with a certain frequency and proves to be a variant on parallel mono-directional movement.40 Let us now analyze those sections that are characterized by a harmonic aspect generated by the interaction between polytonal and polymodal processes.41 The overlapping of melodic lines, dyads and triads is very often linked to the desire to create dissonances between the components in play (in many cases the minor/major second and tritone). This type of 40
Examples of sound blocks with integrally parallel movement of transitional function are to be found in II Fra lo scherzo e la danza, bars 85-7; III Una serenata, bar109, IV Una ridda tumultuosa, bars 125-6 and 150-1. Following Azzaroni (LORIS AZZARONI, Canone infinito: lineamenti di teoria della musica, CLUEB, Bologna 2001, p. 280) we consider polymodal and polytonal textures to be derived by means of the â€˜amplificiationâ€™ of two or more tonal and/or modal textures, which may interact vertically (overlapping harmonically), horizontally (overlapping rhythmically) or integrate so as to give rise to complex textures.
procedure is revealed in a series of highly varied applications. Some examples of this will be considered. The opening of Expression VI Una fanfare (Example 6) is a good example of polytonal overlapping that has the purpose of creating a double minor-second clash in the point in which the two tonalities in play meet one another (G + F#).
Example 6. VI. Una fanfara. Allegro assai, bars 212-3 (transcription)
In other places the components involved in the overlapping are difficult to collocate into precise modal/tonal contexts, because they are made up of the barely essential material. The initial overlapping of panel II (Example 7) is an example of this. It presents contrasting elements whose goal is to create, in a context dominated by the presence of the tritone, further dissonance with the clash between b and bb, and between e and eb. Note the presence of the tritone in the diminished triad of the timpani; in the primary intervals in the lower systems; in the Locrian mode scale runs of the violas and cellos.
Example 7. II. Fra lo scherzo e la danza. Agitato assai, bars 26-8 (transcription)
The second part of this Expression (bars 35-75; Example 8) continues to employ the tritone (c#-g) as the foundation of the harmonic aspect. Note how the entries of the various parts in the imitative counterpoint restates the harmonic tritone, c#-g. This contrapuntal episode is accompanied by a dyad comprised of sounds from two different sound systems. The reasoning behind these overlappings may be, once again, linked to the desire to highlight the tritone. From the first bars onwards the imitative motif (b / c# / a) is heard at least once in counterpoint with the melodic interval of the tritone (f-b / g-c# / eb-a).
Example 8. II. Fra lo scherzo e la danza. Pi첫 presto, bars 35-44 (transcription)
At times, in spite of the apparent extraneousness of the overlapping components, the desire to create harmonic structures that can be retraced to traditional chords is distinguishable. This is the case of panel IV (Una ridda tumultuosa), the first bar of which is reproduced below (Example 9). This panel can be interpreted (thanks to enharmonic equivalence) as the juxtaposition of two seventh chords (a minor triad with the major seventh added, and a major triad with the major seventh added).
Example 9. IV. Una ridda tumultuosa. Vivace assai, bar 137 (transcription)
The last symphonic Expression (VII. Un fuoco di ritmi violenti) is particularly interesting from the point of view of the compositional components in play. The rough interaction of juxtaposed blocks veils a sub-surface motivic elaboration which takes an elementary cell as a starting point (once more the ‘trill’ motif) and arrives at its most complete thematic exposition in the finale of the panel (bars 265-7). The blocks are differentiated from the points of view of nature and components in play in the overlapping, of the implied meter (when they do not have a polymetric structure), and of the sound system of reference. The first block (Example 10) is characterized by the static polytonal overlapping of two chords at a distance of a triton (g + c#) in the lower register. This reveals once more the way in which the tritone acts as the ‘corner-stone’ of the structure: it lingers on in the following re-hearing of the block, though the harmonies vary (bars 240; 242-3: C+F# // bars 2546: A-D#). The overlapping in the second block (Example 10) is different in nature. Here the polytonality becomes dynamic through the movement of the chords involved (G + f# // Ab + A // G + f# // f# + e), which follow the
recurring pattern of the â€˜trillâ€™ from the motivic point of view, providing the fundamental material for the following motivic elaborations.
Example 10. VII. Un fuoco di ritmi violenti Allegro vivace e marcato, bars 231-2 (transcription)
The block contained in bars 235-6 is different again: overlapping against a pandiatonic background animates the step-wise movement of seventh and ninth chords (triadic base: C-d-C-d-a-G-a-C-d-C-Bdim-a-Ga-Bdim-C-d-e-F) which are then reprised in the following block (bars. 237-8) in a transposition by the interval of the tritone (F#-g#-F#, etc.). The chromatic nature of the transitions between one system of reference and another finds its apex in the sequence of bars 257-64. Here a structure based on the interaction of blocks, which in turn are composed of complex overlappings, proceeds by ascending semitone. The two starting blocks are composed as follows: 1) Triple layering: - Overlapping of minor triads (db + bb) - Melodic element in the horns moving by whole tones (feb-db-cb) - The interval of the minor third in the lower register (contrabasses, trombones, bass tuba) 2) Progression of major triads starting from the third of the chord abandoned. The two groups of triads interact to create a tritone relation. Once these two blocks have been defined, they are inserted into a process of progressive chromatic ascent (Table 3) which opens out into the final sequence, the culmination of the entire composition (bar 265).
The conclusive stratification, a synthesis of the preceding compositional elements, is thus composed: - pedal chords formed of the interaction between major triads separated by a tritone (Bb-E). - dyads in chromatic ascension – the conclusive ‘motto’, the point of arrival of the preceding motivic elaboration.
Example 11. VII. Un fuoco di ritmi violenti. Allegro vivace e marcato, bars 265-9 (transcription)
TABLE 3 86
CONCLUSIONS Pause del silenzio can be interpreted as the concise and original product of heterogeneous aesthetic and compositional stimuli. Many compositional elements (the interaction of synchronic blocks, the polyrhythmic overlappings, the use of hexatonic pitch-class sets, pandiatonicism, the overlapping of thirds – sevenths, ninths, elevenths and thirtheenths – in ‘coloristic’ roles, harmonies constituted by overlapping fourths and fifths) bear witness to familiarity with the European musical avant-garde of the time, in particular with Stravinsky (The Rite of Spring) and with Debussy. However, it is evident that Malipiero did not grasp (or did not wish to grasp) the radical nature of his European peers’ innovations. This aspect is more comprehensible if considered in relation to a more general cultural attitude, typically Italian, which tended to see cultural novelty from north of the alps with proudly nationalistic eyes. Though on the one hand this may (perhaps) have led to the complete comprehension of the revolutionary implications of certain compositional aspects of the time being compromised, on the other hand it paved the way for a an original synthesis of these aspects with those those of Malipiero’s personal aesthetics. Indeed, Pause uses compositional techniques that can be retraced to the composer’s personal style (pedals, ostinatos and canons) 42 and the attempt can even be seen to revitalize certain characteristics which, whether he was right or wrong in doing so, Malipiero considered to be typical of Italian music of the past (it is enough to think of the melodic construction and perhaps the use of certain modal sequences). The repetition of the ‘Squillo’, the simple implicit structure of the ‘Expressions’ and the extreme clarity of the holistic formal architecture allow widely varying compositional techniques to be assimilated into a complete work. The question of Malipiero’s conception of modality is more complex. The reference to vaguely specified ‘ancient modes’ is certainly present in 42
«[…] pedals (my preferred means of creating an atmosphere of tranquillità, or at times driving rhythmic overlappings), canons (in other words, melodies which follow one another and respond to each other as though echoes). Put simply, all of the material which is associated with me, and which I sow in my works without acrobatics, was already at my service twenty years ago for my musical expression.» [(…) i pedali (ch’io prediligo per creare delle atmosfere di tranquillità, o talvolta delle incalzanti sovrapposizioni di ritmi), i canoni (cioè dei canti che si inseguivano e si rispondono come l’eco), insomma tutto il materiale che mi è familiare e che semino, senza acrobatismi, nelle mie opere, già vent’anni fa era mio e me ne valevo per esprimermi musicalmente.] (MALIPIERO, Ricordi e pensieri, p. 342).
the texts of those who initially dealt with Malipiero’s music.43 He himself on many occasions makes statements to this effect, but these tell us little about the composer’s awareness of modal systems of the past and even less about their relation with his compositional technique.44 In any case, the classification of the modal systems as proposed in the present text, though probably distant from that of Malipiero himself from the point of view of terminology, has proven to be a necessity for distinguishing relationships between the sections and for proposing hypotheses concerning the role such sequences play within the compositional procedure. The problematic nature of these considerations is further exacerbated if we associate the concept of mode with the harmonic dimension. In an essay calling for a school of correct interpretation of the operas of Claudio Monteverdi we find an emblematic statement in this regard: «The foundations for the functioning of this school must first of all be the knowledge and mastery of the ‘modes’, meaning the ‘ancient and Gregorian tonalities’ […].»45 However, it remains to be demonstrated that Malipiero meant ‘harmonic tonality’ by the term ‘tonality’. There is no doubt that Casella, in commentating Malipiero’s music, refers to the modes in order to denote the nature of the vertical sonorities.46 In Pause del silenzio Malipiero seems to consider the ‘mode’ to be the woods within which he can hunt for sounds to compose his harmonies according to rules which have nothing to do with the functional-tonal tradition and which are particularly difficult to codify within rigid coordinates. Such difficulties are correlated to the quality of the management of the 43
Concerning Malipiero’s writing, A. Casella states: «[…] he makes broad use of ancient modes: Dorian, Hypodorian, Phrygian, Mixolydian» [(...) fa largo uso di modi antichi: dorico, ipodorico, frigio, misolidio.] (CASELLA, Il linguaggio, p. 127); and also M. Bontempelli: «so-called modern tonality [is] always substituted by the far richer system of the ancient modes» [la cosiddetta tonalità moderna [è] sempre sostituita dal ben più ricco sistema di modi antichi.] (MASSIMO BONTEMPELLI, Gian Francesco Malipiero, p. 22). Above all as an editor of ancient music: «[…] Claudio Monteverdi, too, made use of various (Greek) ‘modes’ in relation to the expression of atmospheres corresponding to the plots of his melodramas, or in music of a representative nature» [(…), pure Claudio Monteverdi si serviva dei vari “modi” (greci) in rapporto all’espressione degli stati d’animo corrispondenti alle vicende dei melodrammi, o della musica di genere rappresentativo.] (MALIPIERO, Ricordi e pensieri, p. 332). «Le basi per il funzionamento di questa scuola devono essere anzitutto la conoscenza e la padronanza dei ‘modi’, cioè delle ‘tonalità antiche e gregoriane’ […]». GIAN FRANCESCO MALIPIERO, Per un istituto di studi monteverdiani, in Malipiero scrittura e critica, edited by Naria Teresa Muraro, Olschki, Florence 1984, pp. 158-9. See CASELLA, Il linguaggio, p. 129.
material; in very concise terms two types of compositional behavior can be observed which may appear contradictory at first sight. On the one hand the peculiar characteristics of the systems of reference used are highlighted (the tritone for example in relation to the Locrian mode or to the Pause set); on the other hand there is the use, above all in phases of transition, of heterogeneous sound systems, of ‘process based’ forms of writing, built upon the planing of the components in play. The former approach refers back to traditional compositional behavior, in which the composer as ‘artisan’ constructs ad hoc vertical sonorities making use of the intervallic material at his disposal; in the second Malipiero’s more progressive side is illuminated: by placing his trust in automated solutions, Malipiero hints at compositional attitudes which will only be fully developed in the second half of the century. In order to further our state of knowledge, we propose detailed study of the texts of reference which guided Malipiero in his discovery of the modal systems of the past. The main resource for such work will be the Malipiero Fund, at the Cini Foundation of Venice, which contains many volumes (including Renaissance treatises) from the personal library of the Venetian composer. This Fund was, for many years, managed by one of the most influential and untiring Malipiero scholars, the musicologist Giovanni Morelli, who recently passed away and to whose memory this essay is dedicated.
IN MEMORIAM MILTON BABBITT Giovanni Albini Remembering Milton Babbitt (1916-2011) in these short lines is, for me, like retracing a subtle thread which runs through my private recollections and through the history of music, weaving together images, impressions and emotions which constitute the legacy of one of the 20th Century’s most influential artists. Even though I never met him in person, my first memory of Babbitt is almost physical, almost tangible. Nearly ten years ago Paul Glass, during his unforgettable lessons, told me of the time in which he had had the good fortune to study with Babbitt. His words were richly detailed and truly brought to life the figure of Babbitt, who seemed to gradually manifest as a presence within the room, as though he was participating in our conversations. And so it was that Glass almost evoked the man himself as introduced me to Babbitt’s theoretical texts. These texts, which essentially mark the beginning of mathematical musical theory as we know it today, are of great importance not only for the results they arrive at but, and perhaps above all, for the method they propose. Indeed, Babbitt’s key insight lay in the way in which the dodecaphonic system was formally characterized: «the twelve-tone system, like any formal system whose abstract model is satisfactorily formulable, can be characterized completely by stating its elements, the stipulated relation […] among these elements, and the defined operations upon the sorelated elements.»47 This operation was carried out through the introduction of the mathematical concept of permutation, allowing group theory to be applied to the analysis of the system: «The rules of formation and transformation of the twelve-tone system are interpretable as defining a group element (a permutation of order of set numbers) and a group operation (composition of permutation).»48 Babbitt’s writings illuminate not only the two faces of their author, that of the mathematician and that of the composer, but also his peculiar attention to and thoroughness in the study of dodecaphonic music, which was the starting point for the definition of his compositional technique. In 47
MILTON BABBITT, Twelve-Tone Invariants as Compositional Determinants, Musical Quarterly, 46/2, 1960. MILTON BABBITT, The Structure and Function of Musis Theory, College Music Symposium, 5, 1965.
fact, in 1987 he wrote: «if you looked at any of those pieces […] you’d find that they were all twelve-tone compositions, but I think that would tell you very little about my music.»49 And so here we encounter Babbitt the composer, whom the European (and Euro-centric) academia has ignored for far too long. His Three Compositions for Piano (1947) and his Composition for four instruments (1948) are memorable, among the first examples of integral serialism, composed as they were before Olivier Messiaen’s Mode de valeurs et d'intensités (1949-50). Semi Simple Variations for piano (1956), which I regard as his masterpiece, is also memorable: a perfect crystal of musical relations. But the catalogue of his works is vast and heterogeneous, with significant excursions into electronic music and jazz. Babbitt, always on the borderline between tradition and innovation, was a child of his times, and of those times a father. Lastly, we must recall his 1958 article, still decidedly topical: Who cares if you listen?, originally titled The composer as a Specialist. The only provocative aspect of this text was its title, vulgarly chosen by the editor without consulting the author. Rather, it was substantially a lucid analysis which vindicates the value of stylistic innovation, and of an art which does not seek (and which, in order to express itself freely, should never need to seek) consensus. And in the world in which we live, Babbitt’s words ring truer than ever: «Admittedly, if this [contemporary art] music is not supported, the whistling repertory of the man on the street will be little affected, the concert-going activity of the conspicuous consumer of musical culture will be little disturbed. But music will cease to evolve, and in that important sense, will cease to live.»50
MILTON BABBITT, Words About Music: The Madison Lectures, University of Wisconsin Press, 1987. MILTON BABBITT, Who cares if you listen?, in High Fidelity, February 1958.
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