Répons (1981–84), the first major work to arise from Pierre Boulez’s involvement with IRCAM, is underpinned by a collection of five chords. Surface details interact with the compositional scheme but achieve a certain independence and spontaneity.
Nevertheless, the density of the music, which is sometimes enhanced by computer-facilitated transformation, at times veers towards a phantasmagoric, seamless web that threatens to undermine the articulation of space generated by the configurations of blocks and individual moments. Boulez’s spatial dialogue of system and idea is illuminated by Adorno’s theoretical attempts to turn systematic thought towards the particular.
This according to “Répons: Phantasmagoria or the articulation of space?” by Alastair Williams, an essay included in Theory, analysis and meaning in music (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994, pp. 195–210).
Today is Boulez’s 90th birthday! Above, part of the score of Répons; below, the composer conducts a performance of the work in a film by Robert Cahen.
In a 1997 interview, Svâtoslav Rihter spoke about his love of unscheduled performing.
“I now know from experience that things planned too far in advance always end up being aborted. Always! Either you fall ill, or you’re prevented from appearing for some other reason, whereas if you improvise—“The day after tomorrow? Of course, why not?” or, if the worst comes to the worst, “Next week?”—everything passes off smoothly. I may be on form today, but who can tell what I’ll feel like on such-and-such a date in the more-or-less distant future?”
“And so, when I arrive in a country I prefer to open a map and show my impresarios the places that have certain associations for me or that excite my curiosity and, if possible, that I’ve not yet had a chance to visit. We then set off by car, followed by the pianos, avoiding motorways like the plague. And then I may play in a theater or chapel or in a school playground at Roanne, Montluçon, or in some remote corner of Provence. All that matters is that people come not out of snobbery but to listen to the music.”
This from Sviatoslav Richter: Notebooks and conversations (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001, pp. 110, 114).
Today is Rihter’s 100th birthday! Above, in Kiev in 1958; below, a 1964 performance of Prokof’ev’s second piano sonata.
In 2014 the guitarist Charlie Sexton and other musicians from Austin, Texas, collaborated with Danish and Swedish musicians in the cross-cultural jam known as Ice Music in Luleå, Sweden.
The artists co-wrote and performed songs on violins, cellos, and other “icestruments” designed by the instrument maker Tim Linhart. The icestruments are played inside igloos to slow the melting process. Some must be suspended from the ceiling to avoid cracking, and all require frequent tuning, re-freezing with dry ice vapor, and spot repairs, as handling and body heat cause nearly instantaneous melting.
Linhart hopes the collaboration with the musicians from Texas will be the start of a long-term project to establish a new genre of music inspired by the elements.
This according to “For these musicians, hot licks provide cold comfort: Players in Sweden make music from ice instruments; beware of melting violins” by Anna Molin and Miguel Bustillo (The Wall Street journal CCLXV/57 [11 March 2015] pp. A1, A10); an online version of the article is here.
Above and below, Ice Music in Luleå.
In 2014 transcript Verlag launched the series Musik und Klangkultur with Musik—Raum—Technik: Zur Entwicklung und Anwendung der graphischen Programmierumgebung Max.
The book discusses the visual programming language for music and multimedia known as Max. After over two decades of development and application, Max has become a sort of international lingua franca in practically-oriented music, art, and media institutions. A complete cultural-historical survey is presented, in which the software figures as the product of a specific sphere of aesthetic practice, which retroactively evokes innovative production structures. The focus of the analysis thus becomes the reciprocal influences of technological and artistic production.
Below, a demonstration of Percussa AudioCubes, an electronic musical instrument that allows users to create Max/Msp patches using an OSC server.
The Directory of South African Music Collections collates information on special music collections in South Africa in order to stimulate music research on South African materials in South Africa and internationally. In an effort to cover the widest possible spectrum in music research, the directory provides the location and status of documents and collections.
This directory was initially part of a Masters study, funded by the South African Music Archive Project (SAMAP) and created under the auspices of the Stellenbosch University Library and Information Service.
Although only a number of national, provincial and tertiary institutions are currently represented in the directory, the aim is to expand it by including further institutions in the aforementioned categories and private collections.
Above, Stellenbosch University Library, the host institution of this free online database, viewed from the rooiplein. Below, a work by the South African composer Hubert du Plessis, who taught at Stellenbosch University.
Die Lebensfreude is a pioneering piece of music composed with the aid of an amoeba-like plasmodial slime mold called physarum polycephalum.
The composition is for an ensemble of five instruments (flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano) and six channels of electronically synthesized sounds. The instrumental parts and the synthesized sounds are musifications and sonifications, respectively, of a multi-agent based simulation of physarum foraging for food.
Physarum polycephalum inhabits cool, moist, shaded areas over decaying plant matter, and it eats nutrients such as oat flakes, bacteria, and dead organic matter. It is a biological computing substrate, and has been enjoying much popularity within the unconventional computing research community for its astonishing computational properties.
This according to “Harnessing the intelligence of physarum polycephalum for unconventional computing-aided musical composition”by Eduardo R. Miranda, an article included in Music and unconventional computing (London: AISB, 2013).
Many thanks to the Annals of Improbable Research for bringing this to our attention! Above, the co-composer; below, the work’s premiere.
Michael Tippett called T.S. Eliot his spiritual and artistic mentor, and their numerous discussions in the 1930s proved a lasting influence on the composer’s beliefs about the coming-together of words and music.
Tippett quoted from and alluded to the work of Eliot not only in his early pieces, as has previously been noted, but in much later compositions such as The ice break, The mask of time, and Byzantium.
Eliot’s essay The three voices of poetry examines the number of voices in which the I of a poem can speak, freed from the specificities of prose, and Tippett, influenced by Eliot, harnessed the form of oratorio, freed from the specificities of opera, to allow it to speak in many voices.
This according to “Tippett and Eliot” by Oliver Soden (Tempo LXVII/266 [October 2013] pp. 28–53).
Today is Tippett’s 110th birthday! Below, the opening movements of A child of our time, another of Tippett’s works that was influenced by Eliot.
In 2013 the Escola de Música e Belas Artes do Paraná at the Universidade Estadual do Paraná launched Revista Vórtex, an open-access online publication.
The journal encourages the submission of works from research areas including composition, computer music, musicology, theory, music education, and ethnomusicology. Vórtex accepts the submission of articles, translations, interviews, and scores in Portuguese, English, or Spanish. Concert, festival, CD, DVD, and book reviews are also accepted.
Below, a work by Dániel Péter Biró, one of the contributors to the inaugural volume.
Since its premiere in 1986, Alfred Schnittke’s Концерт для смешанного хора (Koncert dlâ smeŝannovo hora/Concerto for mixed chorus) has gained prominence as a masterwork in the choral repertoire.
Schnittke himself said that his goal was to provide the musical language with “deep roots”, an idea that is expressed in the relationship of the work to the sacred Russian choral tradition.
An analysis of the work confirms that it shares many characteristics with various genres of that tradition. The concerto’s modern influences, such as tone clusters, demonstrate an expansion of this tradition and highlight Schnittke’s individual compositional voice.
This according to Alfred Schnittke’s Concerto for choir: Musical analysis and historical perspectives by Mark David Jennings, a dissertation accepted by Florida State University, Tallahassee, in 2002.
Today would have been Schnittke’s 80th birthday! Above, a 1972 portrait by Reginald Gray; below, the concerto’s third movement.
Baseball played an important part in Charles Ives’s life, music, and writings; it was a place where he proved himself as a man, and it provided a framework within which he could build new musical ideas. Ives’s identity as a U.S. composer links him to this game, and a brief chronology of baseball history demonstrates significant changes in the game over the course of his lifetime (1874–1954).
Baseball provided Ives with a vehicle to establish his masculine identity, counterbalancing societal and self views of his musical participation as feminine. His pieces and unfinished sketches about baseball provided a vehicle for him to invent new musical ideas in reference to specific baseball situations that he could use as part of his basic musical language in later pieces.
Analyses of Ives’s baseball-related completed pieces (All the way around and back, Some southpaw pitching, Old home day, The fourth of July) and unfinished sketches (Take-off #3: Rube trying to walk 2 to 3!!, Take-off #7: Mike Donlin–Johnny Evers, and Take-off #8: Willy Keeler at the bat), compared with passages from later works, reveal these associations.
This according to Baseball and the music of Charles Ives: A proving ground by Timothy A. Johnson (Lanham: Scarecrow, 2004).
Today is Ives’s 140th birthday! Above, the Danbury Alerts, ca. 1890; a young Charles Ives is the first seated player from the left. Below, James Sykes plays Study no. 21: Some southpaw pitching.