The Modern mixtape #004

Notes about update #004 of The Modern mixtape.

Polymorphia by Krzysztof Penderecki is a modernist classic from 1961. It is scored for 48 strings and Penderecki uses a lot graphical notation to build clusters of sounds. The result is brutal and harsh. The ending C major chord is quite surreal. It was used in the soundtrack of both The Exorcist and The Shining.

Another modern classic is Gruppen by Stockhausen. It is scored for three orchestras and each orchestra is conducted by a separate conductor. The idea is that Stockhausen had is that you have groups of notes that have characteristics in common. It can be the timbre or if all notes have high pitch. In Gruppen each group also share the same tempi. Thats why there are three orchestras with individual conductors. Another reason is the spatial possibilities that you can explore when you place the orchestras at different places. Stockhausen made a lecture serie in England 1972 where he among other things explains the theories around groups and point. It is available on youtube here.

The flutist Clair Chase is one the great champions for contemporary music. Both as a solist and as the founders of the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE).

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The Classical mixtape #002

Notes on update #002 of The Classical mixtape.

Klangfarbenmelodie is a technique that is mostly associated with Arnold Schoenberg. You basically divide a melodic line between different instruments. E.g making a melody of different timbres. The most extreme example is the “point” music technique that Webern and later Stockhausen used.

The term comes from Arnold Schoenberg’s Harmonielehre book. The prime example is the third movement in his 5 Orchestral pieces op 16. Webern used it a lot. One, a bit odd ,example is in his orchestration of Bach Musical Offering.

I also associate this technique with the impressionistic orchestration of Debussy. Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune for instance. For me though, the most skilful example is by Mahler. The ninth symphony in particular. The melodic language is romantic but the orchestration is modernism.

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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.