The Modern mixtape #005

Notes on update #005 of The Modern mixtape.

Regarding Le Déluge d’après Poussin by Hugues Dufourt. It’s like a spectral variant of Morton Feldman. Brian Eno compares ambient music with a river that is floating by. It is always evolving and moving but from your point of view, as a observer, it is standing still. I find these qualities in both Morton Feldman and John Cage music. Le Déluge d’après Poussin is constantly changing, with new harmonies and timbres but standing still at the same time. Very beautiful.

The pianist Sabine Liebner has a atmospheric and dreamy way of playing the piano. She have done very nice recordings of both of Feldman’s late piano pieces and Cage number pieces for solo piano. Here is Tilbury by Christian Wolff.

In the second movement of Voyage into the Golden Screen Per Nørgård uses his infinity series melody for the first time. It is a fractal way that constructs a never ending infinite melody. In the second symphony it is explored even more with a tone row that consists of over 4000 notes. The result is a strange and beautiful piece of music.

Neptuni Åkrar is an orchestra piece by the Swedish composer Henrik Strindberg. The basic idea is arpeggios of natural harmonics played on string instruments. You can read a detailed description about the structure and techniques used in the piece in Swedish here. It won the Christ Johnson prize in 2007.

Click to open in Spotify

Cage Number Pieces

A number of late John Cage pieces are collectively called the Number Pieces. It is 40 pieces written between 1987-1992.

They are called Number Pieces because of the naming of them. They are all named a spelled out number and optionally followed by a sequence number. The spelled out number represents the number of player that should perform the piece. For instance the piece Six is the first piece for six performers and the piece Four3 is the third piece for four players.

In these pieces Cage often uses what is called time brackets to denote time.The notes in a measure does not have duration, instead each measure is marked with times. Either fixed, e.g 1.00 – 1.37 (start the measure at 1.00 and end at 1.37) or flexible 1.00 <-> 1.15 – 1.30 <-> 1.40 (start between 1.00 and 1.15 and end between 1.30 and 1.40).

The pithes in the pieces is often chosen via I Ching, a method to choose by chance that he developed when we was composing Music of Changes.

The instrumentation and method of playing is also many times chosen by the performer.

I find it interesting that although Cage leaves a lot of freedom to the performers he seems to fulfill the purpose and spirit of the pieces when they are performed. The resulting music is, like much of his music, very calm and meditative.

The playlist below contains a selection of the Number Pieces from One2 up to Fourteen. Enjoy!

Soundming- Cage Number Pieces
Click to open the playlist in Spotify



Helmut Lachenmann is a German composer that is born 1955. He is associated with what is called musique concrète instrumentale. The most striking aspect of his music is the fact that many times he simply removes pitch as a musical parameter and uses a lot of unusual playing techniques. That result in music where other musical parameters such as timbre is more prominent.

Lachenmann has written three string quartets. The first one is Gran Torso from 1971. It is for the most parts very quiet. The unusual playing techniques is also very skillfully used and combined. A bit like different sounds that is combined in musique concrete to form new sounds that are distanced and not associated with the original sounds.

Another early piece is Guero. It is one of several study pieces that Lachenmann wrote to explore the possibilities of individual instruments. Other pieces include Pression for solo cello. Guero is written for piano but its very far from a traditional piano piece. There you can also hear very clear what happens when you remove pitch and somewhat replace it with timbre.

Schwankungen am Rand is a piece from 1974-1975 written for brass, electric guitars, pianos, thunder sheets, and strings. It is a fascinating piece on several levels. One thing is the skillful treatment of sounds, that I already mentioned. Another aspect is the “speed” of the piece. Lachenmann stops the development several times and repeats, with slight variation, the same pattern for an extended period of time.

Accanto, music for solo clarinet and orchestra, from 1975-1976. It is based on the last clarinet concerto by Mozart. The idea is to let fragments of the concerto emerge to the surface. It is only in a brief passage near the end that the original concerto is heard. One very nice passage is in the first half of the piece where there are pulses of different textures and timbres that come in and out.


Soundming #1- Lachenmann
Click to open playlist in Spotify



RIP Pierre Boulez

I just heard that Pierre Boulez had passed away. He was one of the most important persons for classical music, especially contemporary. Founder of Ensemble intercontemporain and IRCAM. Conductor and Composer.

When he turned 90 he was asked about his favorite pieces from the 20th century. That interview can be read here.

I have featured two pieces in the Avant-garde playlist. First it is the introduction to the piece Répons from 1981 performed by the Ensemble intercontemporain and secondly it is Edgar Varese piece Amériques conducted by Pierre Boulez.

Pierre Boulez (1968)

(Click here to open the playlist in spotify).

Avant-garde: Spahlinger and Haas

Avant-garde 50 is a spotify playlist that present avant-garde music composed after 1945.

Mathias Spahlinger is a German composer born in 1944. I think that the most fascinating aspect of his pieces is the form. For instance, in Passage / paysage from 1988 where he get stuck the last 10 minutes repeating basically the same note. Or in Extension where most of first movement is sparse and quiet point music but near the end have a brief outburst of very romantic chamber music. The third movement of Farben der Frühe for seven pianos also have a unusual form. The same pitch is repeated for more then eight minutes before the movement is ended with bursts of very modernistic cascades of notes.

Georg Fredrich Haas is and German composer born in 1953. Simply put, one can say that his style is a mix of the early micro polyphony of Ligeti and the French spectral school. “… und …” is a piece for chamber orchestra and electronics. The way Haas is orchestrating different spectrum I think is very nicely done.

Enjoy! (click here to open the playlist in spotify).



Stockhausen Mantra

Mark KnoopRoderick Chadwick and Newton Armstrong have recorded a new excellent album with Stockhausen Mantra.

Mantra is a piece for two pianos and Electronics written in 1070 by Karlheinz Stockhausen. It is a highly structured piece that is based on a thirteen note theme, the “mantra”. Each note is assigned characteristic (like periodic repetition at the beginning), duration and dynamic. Stockhausen then make 13 parts, one for each note. Resulting in a piece that is about 70 minutes long.

For the electronics Stockhausen had a device built, “Module 69 B”, that picked up the sound of the piano and transformed it. The central transformation performed is a ring modulation with the pitch from note for the currently playing part.

One of the parts in a series of lectures that Stockhausen performed in England 1973 is about Mantra. They can be seen on youtube as part1, part2 and part3.

Avant-garde classics

Avant-garde classics is my first playlist that is published in the browse section in the spotify client. It covers avant-garde classical music, mostly composed after 1945. It features works from Xenakis, Stockhausen, Ligeti and Edgard Varèse among others. Please follow it if you like it. My spotify profile can be found here.