Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Conceptualizing Webern.

Anablog has a post of Webern's Five Canons on Latin Texts, a set of some sparkling miniatures for soprano and a small ensemble. And while i was sitting there, impatiently waiting for one of the songs to load in another browser window i clicked to get the next song loading in yet another window to try to get things moving so i could listen to them in a row without waiting fruitlessly. Well, as i expected, they overlapped a little bit. By this point i was already done listening to the first song several times (which is probably about 30 seconds of music) so i heard the first song mixing with the second, and to my surprise what resulted was not a cacophony that one might expect, or a really irregular mish-mash of lines, but a surprisingly beautiful combination that seemed to heighten the Webern-ian feel. Two sopranos instead of one, engaging in different musical dialogues simultaneously, yet fitting together.


This works with Webern, any tonal composer im sure it wont. But this sudden overlap gave me the idea... i could open all 5 songs and play them simultaneously. I suggest you go to ANAblog and try this for yourself, what you'll get is some unusual, beautiful and somewhat intense combination that sounds like some sort of polyphonic Webern choir piece.

To keep the music going i loop the songs, i keep track of those five independent windows and watched the pieces get towards their end, and when this happened, i would start them again from the beginning. Because of small differences in the lengths of these pieces, there is not a strict pattern to the repetitions. I did this process for several minutes. If you listen closely you can hear each piece repeat, you can hear the musical material recycle, but because of the irregularities, there are different textures each time. this is similar to Reich's Phase technique, i suppose, but its applied to ready-made music. Its like Webern on Steroids. Its pretty fun.

Then, as a dramatic finish, i simply let all the pieces run their natural courses and gradually the voices diminish until only one is left and they end in Webern' s typically elegant and expressive manner, giving the piece(s) a punch.

So this could be someone's ready-made composition... a conceptual piece, i suppose. It could actually be any number of pieces, or in several movements, and it can constantly change. But i suggest you familiarize yourself with the pieces before you do this so you can recognize the lines before you play them all together. Its quite cool, the effect... and you can make the music go as long as you want.

No comments: