Sunday, June 07, 2009

Vérités et Mensonges

For the Melodica project, I've been toying with some forgery.  The idea has been to compose the melodica pieces a few famous composers neglected to write before shuffling off.  The notion is that the world really needs a virtuoso Cage Etude and a Berio Sequenza and maybe even an hour of Stockhausen's Klang for solo melodica.  

I have discovered, however, that if you want the result to be both convincing and musical, you can't play fast and loose with your imitations or parodies, no matter how cheap or, well, funny, they might want to be.  If you want to fake a Cage Etude, for example, there's really no alternative to the discipline Cage followed, in which clear rules were established — whether for chance or choice operations — through which the notations on a star map are to be transformed into notes, intervals and chords arrayed in musical time, and then executing those rules precisely.   Forging a work that is supposed to pass as an unknown piece by a known composer requires replicating the same level of detail and depth that the composer brought to his or her work as well as using material that that is similar but not identical to material the model composer used in "real" pieces.  Anything less that that is likely to lead to an unconvincing result. The same goes, one presumes, for Ersatzstockhausen or faux-Boulez or fraudulent Ferneyhough or bogus Babbitt or counterfeit Carter or gold brick Glass or reproduction Reich... okay, you get the idea.  

One other thing:  a successful sham requires that one concocts a convincing backstory.  Like that sweet little melodica piece Morton Feldman jotted down on a cocktail napkin and promptly forgot in a booth in the back of the Cedar Tavern in '58, or that tragic work Xenakis abandoned in a foxhole while running courier services for the resistance, or that very long solo La Monte Young forgot about during one of those years in the 1960's that has long been forgotten by anyone who was really there... 

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