Hans Werner Henze – In Memoriam: Die Weisse Rose (1965)

The London Sinfonietta
Hans Werner Henze

Winter 1964-65, while at work with the composition of “The Bassarids”, I wrote this work as a contribution to the Congress of the European Antifascist Resistance, held in Bologna in March 1965. I chose the occasion to remind audiences of one of the groups who attempted open resistance to the Nazi regime inside Germany. This movement was called “The White Rose” and the same name appeared on the numerous antifascist leaflets composed by their founders, the students Hans and Sophie Scholl, Christoph Probst, Alexander Schmorell, Willy Graf, and the Munich University Professor, Kurt Huber. The movement began its activities in 1942 in Munich, but quickly spread to other important
cities and gained a membership number of more than a hundred. A year later the founders were arrested, tried, condemned, executed. They defended themselves with great courage and died proudly for their ideas.

My work in their honour is a double fugue, and obviously inspired by and composed in the sense of Bach’s “Musikalisches Opfer” structures.
–Hans Werner Henze

Art: Monument to the “Weiße Rose” in front of the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich

Paul Hindemith – Slow Piece & Rondo, for trautonium (Lost. Preserved in a reconstruction by Oskar Sala) (1935)

I. Slow piece
II. Rondo (2:39)

Oskar Sala, trautonium

The trautonium is a monophonic electronic musical instrument invented about 1929 by Friedrich Trautwein in Berlin at the Musikhochschule’s music and radio lab, the Rundfunkversuchstelle. Soon Oskar Sala joined him, continuing development until Sala’s death in 2002.

Instead of a keyboard, its manual is made of a resistor wire over a metal plate, which is pressed to create a sound. Expressive playing was possible with this wire by gliding on it, creating vibrato with small movements. Volume was controlled by the pressure of the finger on the wire and board. The first Trautoniums were marketed by Telefunken from 1933-35 (200 were made).

The sounds were at first produced by neon-tube relaxation oscillators (later, thyratrons, then transistors), which produced sawtooth-like waveforms. The pitch was determined by the amount of resistive wire chosen by the performer (allowing vibrato, quarter-tones, and portamento). The oscillator output was fed into two parallel resonant filter circuits. A footpedal controlled the volume ratio of the output of the two filters, which was sent to an amplifier.

On 20 June 1930 Oskar Sala and Paul Hindemith gave a public performance at the Berliner Musikhochschule Hall called “Neue Musik Berlin 1930″ to introduce the Trautonium. Later, Oskar Sala toured Germany with the Trautonium; in 1931 he was the soloist in a performance of Hindemith’s Concert for Trautonium with String Quartet. He also soloed in the debut of Hindemith’s student Harald Genzmer’s “Concert for Trautonium and Orchestra”.

Paul Hindemith wrote several short trios for three Trautoniums with three different tunings: bass, middle, and high voice. His student, Harald Genzmer, wrote two concertos with orchestra, one for the monophonic Trautonium and, later, one for Oskar Sala’s “Mixtur-Trautonium”. One of the first additions of Sala was to add a switch for changing the static tuning. Later he added a noise generator and an envelope generator (so called ‘Schlagwerk’), formant filter (several bandpass filters) and the subharmonic oscillators. These oscillators generate a main pitch and several harmonics, which are not multiples of the fundamental tone, but fractions of it. For any of the now two manuals, four of these waves can be mixed and the player can switch through these predefined settings. Thus, it was called the “Mixtur-Trautonium”. Oskar Sala composed music for industrial films, but the most famous was the bird noises for Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. The Trautonium was also used in the Dresden première of Richard Strauss’s Japanese Festival Music in 1942 for emulating the gongs- and bells-parts and in the 1950s in Bayreuth for the Monsalvat bells in Wagner’s Parsifal. [wikipedia.org]

Art by Aristarkh Lentulov

Peter Klausmeyer – Cambrian Sea, for electronics (1968)

This piece was put together in the University of Michigan Electronic Music Studio in January, 1968. There is nothing particularly complicated about the material used; all the sounds are electronic in origin.

White noise formed the basis of the first couple of minutes of the piece. The signal was split into several components, filtered through two Krohnhite band-pass filters, re-mixed and shaped by a Moog envelope generator-voltage controlled amplifier combination.

The “metal” sounds were made by modulating a mixture of three sine waves with a white noise signal whose short attack & decay envelope came from the Moog equipment mentioned above. An old tube-type balanced modulator was used here.

The “belch” sounds were made in a fashion similar to that of the metallic sounds, except that a very low sawtooth wave was the modulating signal instead of the white noise, the frequency of one of the sine generators being altered by hand during the decay of the envelope.

With the return of the sea sounds at the end, the piece is closed off in the age-old, time-tested A-B-A fashion. –Peter Klausmeyer

Art by Taiga Chiba

Georg Friedrich Haas – Limited Approximations (2010)

for 6 micro-tonally tuned pianos and orchestra (2010)

Played by: Akiko Okabe, Pi-Hsien Chen, Christoph Grund, Florian Hoelscher, Julia Vogelsänger & Sven Thomas Kiebler – Piano

SWR-Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg
Conducted by Sylvain Cambreling

Georg Friedrich Haas was born in 1953 in Graz, a city in the east of Austria. His childhood was spent in the mountainous province of Vorarlberg, on the Swiss border. The landscape and the atmosphere of the place have left a lasting impression on his personality. The atmosphere was marked not so much by natural beauty in the accepted sense of the word. Rather, Haas experienced the mountains as a menace; he felt closed in by the narrow valley where the sun rarely penetrated. Nature for him represented a dark force. The composer adds: “Just as important for me was the experience of being an outsider: unlike my younger siblings, I never learned to speak the local Alemannic dialect. [source]

[read more]



Alex Huddleston — neglected Gardens; layers of rust, patina, and rock (2014)


Submit to Follow My Score! 2016 Commissioning Project: http://scorefollower.com/followmyscore/

This video is sponsored with the support of Doug Davis through the Follow My Score! 2016 Commissioning Project Campaign; learn more here: http://igg.me/at/followmyscore16/x

Performed by:
Anna D’errico – pianist
Alex Huddleston – assistant

This video was uploaded with permission from Alex Huddleston

Bernd Alois Zimmermann – Sonata For Violin And Piano (1950)


The opening bars of the 1950 Sonate für Violine und Klavier by Bernd Alois Zimmermann act as a launching pad for an invigorating first movement of Bartókian dimensions. The second movement, though filled with fluttering high notes, is a rather brooding affair and lays its patchwork carefully. The final movement is an exercise in urgent virtuosity, ending with a most unforgettable trill and flourish, as if signing an enormous document with a quill of sound.

Performed by Carolin Widmann (violin) and Simon Lepper (piano).

Bernd Alois Zimmerman – Requiem Für Einen Jungen Dichter (1967-69)


Bernd Aloïs Zimmermann‘s definitive statement was Requiem für einen jungen dichter (Requiem for a Young Poet, 1969-1969), a massive requiem scored for three choruses, soprano, and bass soloists with speaking parts assigned to actors and persons within the chorus, organ, electronic tapes, a jazz combo, and an orchestra of Straussian proportions. Working with a multiplicity of texts, Zimmermann originally had planned to limit the words used to those of young poets who had committed suicide, for example, the revolutionary Soviet poet Vladimir Mayakovsky. Zimmermann ultimately found himself opening up to all kinds of verbal sources in multiple languages; political speeches, passages from the Latin Vulgate, the voices of Chairman Mao, Hitler, and even a snatch of the Beatles’ “Hey Jude.” What Zimmermann constructed in the end was a powerful requiem not just addressed to the ill-fated poets, but to the twentieth century as a whole and its crisis of media overload in what is now called “data smog.”

Although Requiem für einen jungen dichter was instantly hailed as a masterwork upon its premiere in 1969, and is referred to in literature about contemporary music as a major achievement, it has nevertheless long remained one masterpiece that nobody could hear. A limited edition LP of the premiere was pressed up and sold as a fundraising item for charities; a CD version of this performance was released at one time by Wergo, but for some reason seems impossible to obtain. Working with a consortium of Dutch institutions, including the Dutch Catholic Radio Broadcasting Organization, the Kunststiftung NRW, and others, Cybele Records has produced a stereo multichannel, surround sound super audio CD of the Requiem, drawing from a rare performance given in Haarlem in 2005 and led by conductor Bernhard Kontarsky.

One astounding aspect of Requiem für einen jungen dichter is that it isn’t in the least dated; it sounds like what an avant-garde composer might do in 2008 if he or she had access to such enormous resources and artistic ambition as Zimmermann. The surround sound is terrific in projecting the various voices in the tapes into all the directions Zimmermann intends; speaking voices from tape and live voices from the stage mesh together in a blend that is effective and terrifying in its dense web of controlled confusion. When the three choruses are all given to yelling at once, the very sound of it sends chills up one’s spine. All of the spoken material is included in the booklet, reproducing Zimmermann’s layout of paragraphs of multilingual text side by side and matched to time points in the performance, though this is rendered in print so tiny one may need a magnifying glass; several score pages are likewise reproduced, plus a diagram of the performance and numerous photographs. Cybele’s effort on behalf of Zimmermann is truly comprehensive and impressive and restores to twenty-first-century listeners this great, gigantic work that served as Bernd Zimmermann’s final testament.

[Dedicated to S.K.]

Tōru Takemitsu – Water Music (1960)

Water Music, for magnetic tape (1960)

A half-century ago in Japan, during the period in which the terms “mixed-media” and “interculturalism” were rarely used, the Japanese composer Tôru Takemitsu (1930-1996) and the outstanding Noh performer and theorist Hisao Kanze (1925-1978) undertook a collaborative project that aimed to create an original musical theater style by combining electroacoustic music and Noh choreography. This mixed-media and intercultural piece was Water Music (1960), the first electroacoustic composition for a Noh performance or, in other words, the first Noh-theatricalization of electroacoustic music.

Instead of using sounds recorded in a Noh performance, for Water Music Takemitsu utilized almost only recorded sounds of water droplets. Some sounds in the piece retain the identity of water drops, due to a lesser degree of modification, i.e. “raw” use of the recorded sounds. In contrast, other sounds with a greater degree of modification have distinct sonic characteristics similar to those of Tsuzumi, a traditional Japanese percussion instrument used in the Noh performance. The sound structure as a whole is immune to the idea of sound density; on the contrary, it creates an impression of a non- metrical, quasi-pointillist form. The irregular occurrences of silence with irregular durations along with the oscillation of Klangfarben between the concrete and the abstract sounds generate unique musical tensions. For this idiosyncratic soundscape Kanze composed original Noh choreography. Excluding the literariness and emotional elements that were typical for traditional Noh play, his performance at the 1960 premiere demonstrated a high degree of clearness and purity, which resulted from his thorough interpretation of the music.

The concurrent presentations of the placidity of the tape music and the various movements of the Noh choreography created a distinctive visual-sound space and the tension within. A further implication is that the musical-theatrical tension was derived also from the collision between different artistic disciplines as well as different cultural components. This particular collision, instead of the smooth integration, was the product of the aesthetic principle of Takemitsu and Kanze. This, however, also raises the question of what essentially the two artists’ aesthetic was and why the new approach to theatricalization of electroacoustic music was necessary. Bearing this question in mind, this paper contextualizes the aesthetic spring head of Water Music in interdisciplinary and intercultural terms, rather than compositional-theoretical. The study seeks to explore how electroacoustic music, as a specific realm of postwar new music, affected the composer’s and the Noh performer’s conception of cultural identity in the context of the massive mixture of traditional and imported cultures in Japan. –Makoto Mikawa

Art by Eric Zener