Robert Ashley – Wolfman (1957-1964)

“This edition introduces us to the most extreme experimental side of the famous American composer. The program starts with ‘The Fox’ (1957), the first electronic music work by Robert Ashley which already displays the future electronic music theatre style. Dark atmospheres and primitive tape collage techniques recorded at home, mixing the electronic tape and the voice in a single ‘live’ pass. The title track, ‘The Wolfman’, was composed in early 1964 and first performed on Charlotte Moorman’s festival of the avant-garde in New York in the fall of the same year, gaining considerable reputation as a threat to the listener’s health. For the occasion instigated by Feldman, Robert Ashley composed a piece of tape music, ‘The Wolfamn Tape’, to be played along with the vocal performance of ‘The Wolfman’. The idea of a tape composition, which is to come out of the same loudspeakers as the voice and the feedback (the main sound source for this composition), is to fill-in the ongoing performance sound and to transform the performance into an elaborate version of the ‘drone’ under the influence of electronics. The choice of what sounds should be on the tape is determined by the need to have the whole range of frequencies brought into the feedback, but to give those sounds a short duration-in other words, a blizzard of very short sounds across the whole frequency range-so that the illusion of the sounds coming from all parts of the room is preserved. For the performance of ‘The Wolfman’ recorded here, produced at the University of California at Davis, Robert Ashley used an earlier (1960) tape composition entitled ‘The 4th of July’. That composition changes gradually from a parabolic-microphone documentation of a backyard party into a layering of tape loops and tape-head feedback. ‘The Wolfman Tape’ (1964) is, as descibed above, a tape composition made for a short performance of ‘The Wolfman’. It uses tape-speed manipulation and mixes of many layers of ‘found’ sounds, both from AM radio and from recordings made using different kinds of microphones. ‘The Bottleman’ was composed in 1960 as music for an experimental film by George Manupelli. The 40 minutes long version preseted here involves contact microphones on a surface that holds a loudspeaker some six feet away. The loudspeaker is broadcasting open-circuit ‘hum’ (at the American standard of approximately 60 hertz). That pitch is raised slightly through tape manipulation and the result is mixed with vocal sounds and other ‘found’ sounds played back at various tape speeds. All compositions previously unreleased. The digipak CD comes with a 12 pages booklet including liner notes written by the composer and the complete score of ‘The Wolfman’, first issued in Source magazine.” [Source]


Georg Friedrich Haas – In Vain (1st Dark Section) (2002)

Georg Friedrich Haas: In Vain (1st Dark Section)

Georg Friedrich Haas (born 16 August 1953 in Graz, Austria) is an Austrian composer of spectral music. [source]

Composition for 24 Instruments
Album: In Vain
Released on Kairos Records
Composed by: Georg Friedrich Haas
Performed by: Klangforum Wien Ensemble
Conductor: Sylvain Cambreling
Genre: Classical
Style: Avantgarde, Microtonal

This composition has been conceived to be performed in a specific light environment of the concert hall, changing gradually as the movements of the composition unfold. This is the first dark section, after the opening movement in which the lights are gradually turned down signaling a shift in the atmosphere while the instruments abandon equal-tempered tuning and follow the overtone series. The section is primarily comprised of a series of duos (one string instrument and one wind instrument), whose entrances are overlapped and chained together. The duos begin on a unison pitch, but the string instrument immediately slides the pitch up or down by a half step, concurrently overtaking the corresponding woodwind in volume. This section is performed in complete darkness as the performers have memorized the score. As this section reaches its ending the concert hall lightning gradually increases while the piece continues to the next movement.
There are two dark sections on the entire composition while the first (this one) is meant to be played in complete darkness, the second dark section is played in dark while there are strobes of flashing light through its duration.
Dark Sections:
First Dark Section: 5’30″
First Dark Section Ends: 11’02″
Second Dark Section: 42’15″
Strobe Flashes Begin: 48’20″
Second Dark Section Ends: 56’35″


John Cage – Dream (1948)

Piano solo performed by Stephen Drury.

Dream, in fact, was composed at the request of Cage’s longtime collaborator, dancer/choreographer Merce Cunningham. As was his usual practice, Cage began work on Dream only after the dance was completely planned and Cunningham had given him a list of the metric patterns for each dance as a template from which Cage could proceed. source



Jehan Alain – Deux danses á Agni Yavishta (1932)

Always interested in mechanics, Alain was a skilled motorcyclist and became a dispatch rider in the Eighth Motorised Armour Division of the French Army. On 20 June 1940, he was assigned to reconnoitre the German advance on the eastern side of Saumur, and encountered a group of German soldiers at Le Petit-Puy. Coming around a curve, and hearing the approaching tread of the Germans, he abandoned his motorcycle and engaged the enemy troops with his carbine, killing 16 of them before being killed himself. He was posthumously awarded the Croix de Guerre for his bravery, and according to Nicolas Slonimsky was buried, by the Germans, with full military honours.


Richard Strauss – Don Quixote op.35 – Victor De Sabata (1948)

Don Quixote, Op. 35, is a tone poem by Richard Strauss for cello, viola and large orchestra. Subtitled Phantastische Variationen über ein Thema ritterlichen Charakters (Fantastic Variations on a Theme of Knightly Character), the work is based on the novel Don Quixote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes. Strauss composed this work in Munich in 1897. The premiere took place in Cologne on 8 March 1898, with Friedrich Grützmacher as the cello soloist and Franz Wüllner as the conductor. The score is 45 minutes long and is written in theme and variations form, with the solo cello representing Don Quixote, and the solo viola, tenor tuba, and bass clarinet depicting the comic Sancho Panza. The second variation depicts an episode where Don Quixote encounters a herd of sheep and perceives them as an approaching army. Strauss uses dissonant flutter-tonguing in the brass to emulate the bleating of the sheep, an early instance of this extended technique. Strauss later quoted this passage in his music for Le bourgeois gentilhomme, at the moment a servant announces the dish of “leg of mutton in the Italian style”. All of the “episodes” are taken directly from the Cervantes novel.

Richard Strauss: Don Quixote (first notes missing)

Aldo Parisot, cello
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

Live Recording: Pittsburgh, 1948


Edgar Varèse – Déserts (World Premiere, 1954)

The first performance of the combined orchestral and tape sound composition was given at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris on December 2, 1954, with Hermann Scherchen conducting and Pierre Henry in charge of the tape part. This performance was part of an ORTF broadcast concert, in front of a totally unprepared and mainly conservative audience, with Déserts wedged between pieces by Mozart and Tchaikovsky. It received a vitriolic reaction from both the audience and the press. [source]



Gérard Grisey – Partiels (1975)

Partiels for 18 Musiciens

Partiels is a defining piece of Spectral music by Gérard Grisey whose opening is derived from an electronic sonogram analysis of the attack of a low E2 on a trombonet. This spectrum is orchestrally synthesized through the assignation of different instruments to each partial in such a way as to harmonically and gesturally model the dynamic temporal evolution of the attack. Many second and third generation spectral composers cite Partiels as causing their initial interest in the spectral outlook.

Thus the opening features the successive entrance of lower partials with the fifth and ninth partials being louder than lower ones, including the fundamental, and all higher partials gradually trailing off in amplitude. Each partial is approximated to the nearest quarter tone. A low bass reinforces the fundamental an octave lower on the open E1 string which is central to Les Espaces Acoustiques cycle of which Partiels is a part.

The piece also makes use of sum and difference tones to create harmonies. [source]

Performed by Ensemble Court-Circuit conducted by Pierre-André Valade.

Accordion – Myrim Bonnin / Cello – Antoine Ladrette / Clarinet – Eric Lamberger,  Olivier Voize, Pierre Dutrieu / Contrabass – Didier Meu / Flute – Catherine Bowie, Marine Pérez / French Horn – Jean-Christophe Vervoitte , Jean-Michel Tavernier / Oboe – Hélène Devilleneuve / Percussion – Jean Geoffroy , Eve Payeur / Viola – Chrstine Bowie, Gérard Caussé , Pascal Robault / Violin – Eiichi Chijiiwa, Nicolas Miribel.

[A guide to Gérard Grisey's music]



Gérard Grisey – Les Chants de l’Amour (1984)

Le Chants de l’Amour for 12 voices and tape Gérard Grisey (1984). Duration: 35:23.

Les Chants de l’Amour, was completed in 1984. It was Grisey’s first large-scale vocal composition, and here the dramatisation of musical material that occurs throughout his instrumental work is very overt, within the context of a ‘music theatre’. With its chattering and countrapuntal vocals, for the most part unintelligible, this is a work that, if any, serves to belie the usual thought that spectral music simply corresponds to an over-technical extravagance of harmony. What is shown again here is that power ofdescription that was a major concern of Grisey, and which explodes in a piece that does not rely on any stereotypically ‘spectral’-orchestral tenets. [source]

I:      8:19
II:     7:24
III:   5:06
IV:  10:08
V:     4:24

Performed by Schola Heidelberg conducted by Walter Nussbaum.



Witold Lutosławski – Chain II: Dialogue for Violin and Orchestra (1984)

Krzysztof Bakowski, violin
Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra (Katowice)
Antoni Wit, conductor

I. Ad libitum
II. A battuta
III. Ad libitum
IV. A battuta – Ad libitum – A battuta

After the crowning achievement of his Symphony No. 3, Witold Lutoslawski searched for new forms to explore. He had spent much of his career working to perfect the single-movement symphonic form, but by the mid-1980s, his attention had shifted toward chamber music and the solo voice. He had, in fact, composed his Partita for violin and piano in 1984, and in that piece had developed new means for sustaining melodic lines with sparse textures and harmonies that were more suitable for a chamber setting. The opportunity to write something for the phenomenal Anne-Sophie Mutter no doubt served as inspiration for Lutoslawski’s Chain 2, dialogue for violin and orchestra, composed just a year after the Partita. Apart from featuring the violin, however, there is little resemblance between the two pieces, a remarkable fact considering their chronological proximity.

Chain 2 takes its title from a technique Lutoslawski had developed earlier in his career, but which had preoccupied him in the 1980s. The notion of the “chain” derives from the overlapping of distinct materials. For example, a phrase launched by the violin may be picked up in midstream by woodwinds, while the violin then drops out. Then another instrument may enter playing something new, and so on. In this way, the musical flow is perpetual, and new elements can be continuously introduced. In essence, this chain technique is a form of counterpoint, but extends a considerable relational freedom, including the possibility for simultaneous tempi, an innovation Lutoslawski was happy to explore. However, this technique does not form the main focus of the whole piece. Instead, Lutoslawski created four distinct movements, the first and third being related, and the second and fourth also bearing a resemblance to each other. The chain technique is most prominent in the first and third movements, which are both performed as a structured ad libitum. In Lutoslawski’s music, this means that while the music is fully notated, the conductor does not keep time, but cues the entrances for the different players, who then proceed at their own pace outside of any metrical divisions. This allows the violin soloist, in particular, to perform freely, as if in a cadenza, able to give full expression without needing to be precisely synchronized with the orchestra. The opening movement is indeed rhapsodic in character, followed by a lively, scherzo-like second movement. The third is slow and deeply lyrical, while the finale is brilliant and quick, as one might expect.

While exploring new means of shaping his music, Lutoslawski also looked back tothe Baroque, to the concerto tradition shaped by Corelli, Vivaldi, and perhaps Mozart. The tone is certainly lighter than a Romantic concerto, and in Chain 2 this is underscored by the chamber orchestra. Indeed, compared to his intensely dramatic Cello Concerto from 1970, Chain 2 is a paragon of balance and refinement.