A Very Difficult Etude for Two Instruments

July 20, 2010 2:57 PM

Another older piece I composed, in 2006. It uses a sort of minimalist, pseudo-metric modulation that, even though the tempo stays the same throughout, creates a kind of time-warpy impression.

Recorded in NYC sometime in 2007 by the (incredible) violist and clarinetist from Counter Induction.

posted by Lutoslawski (11 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

I like the concept and execution here. A very heady piece!
posted by abc123xyzinfinity at 3:20 PM on July 20, 2010

John Adams is rolling in his pretentious...chair, and hates himself for not thinking of this first.
posted by askmeaboutLOOM at 6:26 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Are the two instruments slowly moving in and out of phase? Like playing 7/8 versus 8/8 only more so?
posted by unSane at 9:41 PM on July 20, 2010

this must be a bugger to play. 'heady' is the right word. lovely.
posted by peterkins at 11:52 PM on July 20, 2010

Hey, thanks everyone!

Actually what's happening is this: each instrument is playing a 7 note sequence in hockett. Each time to sequence is repeated, one note in the sequence is increased in time value by a half or third of its previous value. The next time it's repeated the following note is extended by the same value and so on.

Here, I uploaded the score!
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:09 AM on July 21, 2010

The time signatures are hilarious!
posted by unSane at 10:54 AM on July 21, 2010

What does 'in hockett' mean? #Googlefail.
posted by unSane at 10:55 AM on July 21, 2010

You're google failed because I put an extra "T" on it. It's hocket. It just means basically that you break up the melody, so different voices share the melody through some sort of alternation. Wiki.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:58 AM on July 21, 2010

The time signatures are hilarious!

Yeah, it's not often you see a measure of 27/64.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:00 AM on July 21, 2010

*your. clearly, this morning I'm not at the top of my spelling game.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:07 AM on July 21, 2010

I actually wrote a similar piece a couple years ago for a friend's masters voice recital, applying the concept to the text of the piece as well as the music. Here was the description I sent her:

So...there are two sentences, each consisting of six words. These are the first and last phrases of Infintie Jest. The phrases are: "I am sitting in an office" and "And the tide was way out." The basis of the piece is that the first sentence slowly transforms into the second. Now, there are twelve unique words and each word has been assigned a note, representing all 12 notes. The transformation works like this: the first sentence is static, that is, the same word/note always occurs in the same position in the sequence. The second phrase moves through the first one, one word at a time. Each time a word from the second phrase moves through the entire first phrase, a new word is added and so on until, in the final bar, the sentence is complete.

On top of this, the phrase is gradually temporally elongated. i.e. every bar, one note of the sequence increases in duration by half its value (a dot). So even though the tempo of the piece remains absolutely constant, the music has the effect of becoming gradually slower. It's sort of a slow metric modulation. It should start as fast as you can do it...because by the end it will be much slower and it wouldn't be good if it got too slow at the end, I don't think.

On top of this, the accompanying instrument is playing the note sequences in the opposite direction (i.e. the first bar of the accompanying figure is the note sequence of the final phrase at the end of the piece). The effect of this is that in the first and last bars you get all 12 notes, this gradually degenerates into a smaller array of notes, climaxing in the middle when things are overlapping and you get three bars of the two figures having the exact same notes.

So what you get in the end is this totally nutty atonal time warping minimalist thing of maddening proportions.

Here's the score.

Needless to say, she ended up declining to perform it. It awaits a premiere, if you know any singers who are out of their minds.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:20 AM on July 21, 2010

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