sábado, 2 de junio de 2012

Third listen - Hába - String Quartet Nº 11, in the sixth-tone system

Alois Hába - String Quartet Nº 11, in the Sixth-tones system

Alois Hába was a czech composer (1893 - 1973) as well as a great music theorist. He is known, with Julian Carrillo, as one of the most important composers of microtonal music, and, also, we could say that he almost is the father of this music, since before him (and of course at the same time as Carrillo [mexican microtonal composer]) this musical current didn't exist, only in a few cases, like some approaches of some composers like Jacques Fromental Halévy (France 1799 - 1862) or John Foulds (Great Britan 1880 - 1939).

Since Hába was a child he had perfect pitch, reason why his older brothers, willing to annoy him, would sing weird intervals that werent part of the typical twelve and Alois should play those sounds on his violin. At first he would allways play the closest chromatic scale sound to the one that his brother would sing, until he admitted those sounds as real ones and realised that there were more sounds than the ones in the typical scale.

Perfect pitch helped Hába great time in the conception of the systems that he would, later, theorize and would publish in few books, being the most important one titled: "New Theory of Harmony of the Diatonic, the Chromatic, the Quarter-tone, the Third-tone, the Sixth-tone and the Twelfth-tone Systems". This book was written in the year 1925, as a extension of his previous book about the Quarter-tone system.

This quartet is divided in three movements: 1 - Allegro Energico, 2 - Andante Misterioso, and 3 - Allegro Agitato.

The system on which this string quartet is composed, the sixth-tone one, is a system that responds only to the idea of the composer on how to organize the matter which is derived from the scale, which is invented or extracted, starting from a base material, which is the division of the octave in 36 sounds.
After, on that material an organization rule is designed, rule that will determine the way that the scale will work, in the melodic sense, the harmony, the melodic twists, etc. Alois Hába in his New Theory of the Harmony explains in a detailed fashion the way this composing technique works, giving in this way a new vision to the system on which you might compose and at the same time keeping the tonality (do not confuse with tonality in a classic way).

1 - Allegro Energico

2 - Andante Misterioso

3 - Allegro Agitato

miércoles, 30 de mayo de 2012

Second Listen - Lutoslawski - Concerto for Orchestra

Witold Lutoslawski - Concerto for Orchestra

Witold Lutoslawski was a polish composer, he was born on the 25th of january 1913 and died on the 7th of February 1994. He was one of the most important composers of the XX century. His style took a lot of Bartok's and Schoenberg's music. Something that made him unique is that, although he took things from this composers, at the same time he didnt aply them in the same way, but he understood this things on his own point of view and adapted them to new sound worlds, and, of course, he had an own vision of music and made quite an own style, adding new elements, as well. And, by the way, although it might not matter to most of the readers, I think this composer is the greatest after Bach.

This piece was written between the years 1950 and 1954 after a request made by Witold Rowicki, who was the conducter of Varsovia Philharmonic, at that time. The folkloric feeling is quite strong on this piece, and according to many, represents a peak on Lutoslawski's folkloric style.

Something distinctive on the style that is present on this concert is that, although there are folkloric melodies, in many moments they are accompanied with atonal contexts, also, we can see some barroque elements, which are the form of the movements, as you can see on their titles.

This concert is divided in three movements: 1 - Intrada; 2 - Capriccio, Notturno e Arioso; 3 - Passacaglia, Toccata e Corale.

The next presented analisys is an extract from "An investigation of Periodicity in Music, with reference to three twentieth-century compositions: Bartok's Music for Strings Percussion and Celesta, Lutoslawski's Concerto for Orchestra,  and Ligeti's Chamber Concerto". By MOUNTAIN, ROSEMARY - Victoria University - Canada:

1 - Intrada

The first movement, is an ABA form. The A sections are fugues, generally with no divisions, with the exceptions of the intrance of the voices. The horns play a periodic figuration, but which is disonant with the rest of the orchestra, although not so notorious. B sections starts at around 1'25'' when we hear a big explosion in which a long crescendo rests.

B section is much more complex and responds to a form abcabca which is repited three times, but in each repetition it presents little changes and the duration is allways being altered. There are contrasts among the sub-section of B, which consists in density of attack of the notes, changes on the duration of the periods, and the levels of the rhythmic dissonance. Also, the repetition of entire sub-section create the expectation of parallel structures, which allows the listener to anticipate conections.

2 - Capriccio, Notturno e Arioso

This movement has several sections, and the form is a basic AABA. Both sections involve several sub-sections, but A section is much more segmented, while B is unified by the presense of a slow melodic theme. A sections involve repetitions of elements in several levels, from 16ths notes to long sections.

3 - Passacaglia, Toccata e Corale

The beginning of the passacaglia doesnt present a very disctinc difference with the end of the previous movement, neither in registry nor in dynamics. The fact of that the last not of the second movement, and the first of the third are bot pizzicato on the double basses, denotes that this lack of contrast is delibered. As for the union between these two movements is created by the lack of tension, passacaglia's theme remains on a very low density for the first eight bars. The passacaglia clearly presents a high degree of activity, not only in little scale, but also on big. This sections ends in a very low level of energy, as well on time density as in dynamics. 

The passacaglia is very well defined, presenting an ostinato theme in the double basses at first and then repeating it constantly, only changing its pitch, going higher and higher, as well as changing the instrumentation. The variations that occurs above this ostinato are very distant from it, even in some moments there are sections where the time doesnt seem to be the same, and towards the end of the section, the ostinato gets more and more evident, until it is on the forefront. 

After comes toccata which starts with a big explosion. We can notice that this section is notably different to the previous passacaglia, here the melody takes another direction, and we can see the typical form of the barroque toccatas.

For the ending, the choral is presented in counterpoint with other lyrical theme of a fast movement, which is accompanied by complex textures that are constantly increasing. Due to this strcuture the prhase is higly redundant in each one of both themes, and in a measured relation between each other, disonnances seems to be soft. This sections lasts a bit more than a minute and half in its first exposition, the prhase is repeated three times, with a little adde extension in each one of these three repetitions. Once again, towards the end of the piece this choral appears again, but now the extension isn't as important as before, and the background is much more complex than before, instead of the secondary theme.

Rosemary Mountain's text:

martes, 29 de mayo de 2012

Wellcome and first listen

Hello, I wellcome you to this humble blog that, even with spelling miskates, pretends to make music of XX and XXI centuries more accesible.

Along this blog's life I will try to post weekly, or monthly, some music pieces that are not widely known in music repertoire with an explanation about the music (if possible) and some information about the composer.

That being said, I leave you with the first listen:

Gloria Coates - Symphony Nº 1  "Open Strings"

Gloria Coates is an american composer, she was born on 1938 in Wausau, Wisconsin. 

This, being her first symphony, is quite a peculiar piece which was composed between years 1972 and 1973. This symphony was one of the ten finalist pieces of the International Koussevitzsky Award in 1986. Was premiered in the Warsaw Autumn Festival in 1978 by the Polish Chamber Orchester conducted by Jerzy Maksymiuk, and was called by the press as the highest point of originality of the festival. Originally called "Music on Open Strings", since the composer wasn't decided to call her first long pieces "symphonies" untill she had the first few done.

All the instruments are played with scordatura; which means that the strings are tuned in a not typical way. Also, this symphony is divided in four movements: 1 - Theme and Transformation; 2 - Scherzo; 3 - Scordatura; y 4 - Refracted Mirror Canon in 14 Lines.

1 - Theme and Transformation
In the first movement, strings are tuned according to a chinese scale (which was tought to the composer by her teacher, Alexander Tcherepnin) which contains only the following notes: Bb, C, Db, F and G, which allows the orchestra to tune on these sounds and play melodies based on this scale. In this way, with the instruments tuned in this way, we can start to understand the reason of the title of the piece. Nontheless the performers have to use their left hand, since as the symphony goes on there are several moments where they have to play glissandis, wide vibratos, and hits on the fingerboard as well on the instrument bodies.

2 - Scherzo
The second movement continues with the same tunning, starting with a very rythmical motiv but with pizzicato, adding ascending glissandis after.

3 - Scordatura
In this third movement, strings start with the previously mentioned tunning and slowly, towards the end of it, they return to conventional tunning. We can hear as the players, like a melody, change the tunning.

4 - Refracted Mirror Canon in 14 Lines
The last movement starts only with one voice, on which others start to sound, in a canon manner, then some glissandis motives comes, in different tempos, getting louder constantly and softer again, after, finishing the glissandis motive, and then getting loud again on a single chord, as in a cadence until the end of the symphony.

We are thanked with NewMusicXX for giving quite a lot of this information.