Hans Abrahamsen – Stratifications (1973)

The New Simplicity dominates all of Hans Abrahamsen’s early period, which lasts up to and includes the orchestral piece Stratifications from 1973/75. In its structure and idea the first part of the work can be compared to a series of short film shots each lasting a minute. Each shot – there are four in all – has so to speak been filmed in a new place, but each time with a static camera that simply registers what is happening in front of the lens for the brief moment the shot lasts, without any movement of the camera or any focus on a particular actor or event. The stratified nature of the music to which the title refers thus applies both to the vertical (the film shots) and to the horizontal axis, since the composer has chosen to let several different independent musical strata, clearly distinguishable for the listener – different actions, so to speak – pass the camera lens at the same time. [Source]

[Dedicated to Martin von Haller Grønbæk]

Peter Gabriel’s New Blood Orchestra recording at Air Studios

A series of orchestral teasers for Peter Gabriel’s ‘New Blood’ record. The New Blood Orchestra recorded versions of Peter’s songs for a forthcoming album at Air Studios in June. The arrangements are by John Metcalfe and Richard Chappell led the team magically capturing the audio with the lovely people at Air. For more information on the album release and live dates visit petergabriel.com.

Terry Riley – In C (1964)

In C is a semi-aleatoric musical piece composed by Terry Riley in 1964 for any number of people, although he suggests “a group of about 35 is desired if possible but smaller or larger groups will work”. It is a response to the abstract academic serialist techniques used by composers in the mid-twentieth century and is often cited as the first minimalist composition.

In C consists of 53 short, numbered musical phrases, lasting from half a beat to 32 beats; each phrase may be repeated an arbitrary number of times. Each musician has control over which phrase he or she plays: players are encouraged to play the phrases starting at different times, even if they are playing the same phrase. The performance directions state that the musical ensemble should try to stay within two to three phrases of each other. The phrases must be played in order, although some may be skipped. As detailed in some editions of the score, it is customary for one musician (“traditionally… a beautiful girl,” Riley notes in the score) to play the note C in repeated eighth notes, typically on a piano or pitched-percussion instrument (e.g. marimba). This functions as a metronome and is referred to as “The Pulse”.

In C has no set duration; performances can last as little as fifteen minutes or as long as several hours, although Riley indicates “performances normally average between 45 minutes and an hour and a half.” The number of performers may also vary between any two performances. The original recording of the piece was created by 11 musicians (through overdubbing, several dozen instruments were utilized), while a performance in 2006 at the Walt Disney Concert Hall featured 124 musicians.

The piece begins on a C major chord (patterns one through seven) with a strong emphasis on the mediant E and the entrance of the note F which begins a series of slow progressions to other chords suggesting a few subtle and ambiguous changes of key, the last pattern being an alteration between B♭ and G. Though the polyphonic interplay of the various patterns against each other and themselves at different rhythmic displacements is of primary interest, the piece may be considered heterophonic.

Part 1:

Part 2:

You can see the score and performance guidelines as a PDF file here.

[via Steen Kong Mogensen]

Aaron Copland – Dance Symphony for Orchestra (1925)

One of Aaron Copland’s first significant works upon returning from his studies in Paris was the necromantic ballet Grohg. This ballet, suggested to Copland by the film Nosferatu, a free adaptation of the Dracula tale, provided the source material for his later Dance Symphony. Copland composed three numbered symphonies, but applied the word “symphony” to more than just symphonies of typical structure. He rewrote his early three-movement Organ Symphony omitting the organ, calling the result his First Symphony. His fifteen-minute Short Symphony was the Second Symphony, though it also exists as the Sextet. His Dance Symphony was hurriedly extracted from the earlier unproduced ballet Grohg to meet an RCA Records commission deadline.

Read a review of Copland conducting himself in 1975 in The New York Times here.

Arnold Schoenberg – Phantasy for Violin Op. 47 (1949)

The idea of inviting Rudolf Kolisch and Eduard Steuermann to Darmstadt was suggested to Wolfgang Steinecke by Theodor W. Adorno. The efforts on the part of Darmstadt Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik relating to twelve-tone music were, as Steinecke wrote in 1954, “intended to close the gaps that the offical musical world had left in the overall portrayal of New Music. For, at a time when one could reasonably assume a familiarity through a number of performances with the important works of Stravinsky, Krenek, Bartok and Hindemith, it seemed imperative from a pedagogical standpoint that the works of Arnold Schoenberg, which had been passed over in silence by the official musical world, should also be made known, in order to produce an objective and no longer one-side view of the situation of New Music.”