Wednesday, July 11, 2007

More formal radicals

Three pieces, three related ideas:

(1) James Tenney: Ergodos I (1963) for John Cage. "In an ergodic structure, any given temporal "slice" is equally likely to have the same parametric or morphological statistical characteristics as any other slice." (Quote: Larry Polansky)

(2) La Monte Young: Studies in the Bowed Disk (1963) for a bowed steel gong (made by the artist Robert Morris). Bowed continuously, the initial impression is of a statistically undifferentiated sound mass. But with extended listening, the perception of details (and they are rich: harmonic, inharmonic, noisy) in the sound of the gong allows the listener the possibility of defining a unique form.

(3) David Cope: Endangered Species (2004) for chamber orchestra. Cope writes: "The music of Endangered Species presents unique challenges for listeners. For example, the work is not divided into sections and phrases -- or at least not into easily defined sections and phrases -- as one typically expects of most traditional music. In some ways this makes aural analysis easier, since the music follows a single gesture. In other ways, determining the structure of this work, for example, poses difficult problems. The style -- which I call complex minimalism -- makes the texture at once simple and intricate. These characteristics evoke the notion of minimalism in that material is revealed so slowly that each nuance, every slight change of in pitch, dynamic, and/or timbre, is heightened. The word "complex" comes to mind here because the music gives the impression that it continuous changes, yet never really changes at all. (...) As can be seen [from a score excerpt], the overall musical texture reamins much the same from beat to beat. The entire ensemble plays a majority of the time, with entrances and exits often occuring without metric predictability..."

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