Friday, 23 May 2014

The overlooked things make a big impact.

First off, sorry posts have become less frequent I am BUSY, This month has brought the Rite of Spring, Till, Rosenkavalier, Liadov, Lanza, Bedrossian, Messiaen, the list keeps going.  BUT, here today is a post.

So this post will be in two parts and comes from two places, Grisey's Accords Perdus and Messiaen's Appel Interstelliare. That is a big bite of horn music, also both quite different from each other. In many ways this post is a continuation of two other posts Faking it, and The Little Things. I am sure this post will say something by itself, but the is a great deal of ideas and thoughts I will be building on from the previously mentioned.

First off, this idea I have that an exceptional performance of any kind of music requires a few things.

  1. Knowledge of the style and score.
  2. Knowledge of the composer as well as their idiosyncrasies when it comes to notation. (For example we Know Bruckner and Mahler marked their music VERY heavily compared to others. The same is true with composers now a days. Though with modern notation less is left to "conventional knowledge", but there are markings etc. that remain rather consistent in various styles.. see point 1.).
  3. Validity of the publication. This has two big points. First, the quality between publishers is vast... some work heavily with composers and we can generally assume that the marking there in are valid markings. Though, others are not as consistent and full of errors (this also applies to music from other era, but the wide range of publishing venues currently complicated matters a bit more). Second some composers more than others are known to constantly revisit their music (Boulez for example) to make changes. So, is the music you are working from the current one, or is it a photocopy of the first draft that became heavily revised. This may seem like a big thing to bite off, but I believe that this kind of responsibility is needed to bring accurate and purposeful interpretations to listeners.
  4. Quality collaboration. This is the byproduct of all of the above, we all have different ideas, hopefully built on experience and education, someone may have the missing piece of the puzzle. 
So when we consider all of the above what does it all mean. 


Example 1 from Grisey's Accords Perdus 

So, quick thing to be said. Accords Perdus is a work for two horn based on the natural harmonic series of many horns. The end result is you have varying degrees of microtonality, when you consider and actually take the time to analyze the microtonality the piece becomes more complex sonically, and in turn more interesting. It is one thing to just get the pitches on the page but Grisey gives us much more to consider. The same way we analyze Beethoven's music to know the harmonies the same thing applies here, that is the analysis of the score. SO to example 1. We see that both horns have marked an E eighth flat, one could possibly assume that this is a moment of unison between the two horn. BUT (there wouldn't be a post if there wasn't a but) if you take time and compare harmonic 7 on the SI horn (the upper horn is currently using SI horn to get the E eight flat. The part is not in SI, just the use of SI horn will give the appropriate pitch) and harmonic 10 of the FA horn you would find out that the natural intonation of those harmonic series would place the pitches not in unison but actually ~17.5 cents apart. This kind of thing happens often in the work so one has to take time to really figure out what is going on, so that it can be conveyed to the listener in an obvious way.

I will be back later with part 2 which will talk about the last two points from my list of 4 in regards to Messiaen.


Sunday, 11 May 2014

What are these skills?

So when I started playing new music I never thought about the wide range of skills one would need to develop that fall outside the standard playing of the horn. I am not talking about extended techniques or interpretive dance. I am talking about the nitty gritty things that have to happen when you perform some of this music.

For those that have followed the blog, or know me know I do a great deal of works with electronics. So as a point to start from, let us start from there.

I was fortunate in my undergrad to have taken two courses with composer Laurie Radford, One course was called sonic arts, and it dealt with the recording and altering of sounds, and composing from that material. The second course was an independent study in Max/MSP dealing with live signal processing. These skills, which have included Max/MSP, various audio editing programs, sequencers, etc. have been a GREAT use to me in various ways. The most obvious is in performing works with electronics. That being said, I highly recommend hiring someone who specializes in this if you do perform these works, it just takes a great deal of stress and strain off of you, since you will have enough to worry about. Though, being able to draw on these skills is a huge asset in rehearsals and practise so you can become familiar with the sound world you will be performing in.

So that was one huge set of skills they don't teach to all musicians, if you get a chance take courses in those things, it is a ton of fun. Currently working on Grisey's Accords Perdus has called on another skill. That is being able to generate a click track for performance. It would be helpful to mention that the click track for the Grisey is not a simple track to make, though the process is simple, it can be time consuming. For those who want to make a simple click track Audacity is the best, it is simple to use (though limited in control). I generally use Ableton Live to make my tracks but since I was under a time crunch I went back to audacity for this one.

So this was just a quick post talking about little things... interviews are coming up soon, as are some in depth posts relating to some really cool things... trust me.

Make sure you check out the horn repertoire project, I have been adding to it lately since I have had a little time to do some research.

Until next time.