Josef Anton Riedl – Nr. 4/I (1968-69)

Josef Anton Riedl’s works are mostly remnants of functional music: when he has to write film or theater music he composes it in such a way that the music can stand independently. The normal procedure of diluting an autonomous composition to fit a film or play is directly
reversed: here one begins with the music and ends with an artificial independent work of art. The accidental motive which determined the choice of material is inherent to this work. In 1966/67 Riedl produced the film “Elektronische Musik” for the NDR in collaboration with Stefan Meuschel. For the documentary part, which dealt with the origin of this newest kind of music, Riedl made a variety of recordings of mechanical musical instruments. For instance he recorded the Wehe-Mignon-piano in the Deutsche Museum in Munich, which had retained many historical interpretations including some from Debussy, but which at the same time produced puffing noises; also the similar pneumatic action Hupfeld-Violine, a glockenspiel roll with Weber’s Jungfernkranz music, and a machine which produced sounds by means of rods upon metal discs – and played La Paloma. The laughter and humming of the museum attendants also came into the
recording of these singularly unusual instruments. Riedl amalgamated this and other material – chance discoveries and remains of film-work – into an electronic combination of square-wave tones, filtered and frequency-modulated sounds and other material, and
added suitable concrete sounds which happened to be at hand (barking dogs, aeroplane noise, mumbling and hissing sounds etc.).

Riedl was previously engaged in purely electronic music, in which every single passage must be prefixed and worked out in detail (as in his ‘Studien’). Already here dynamic passages occurred which possessed the character of a process to a high degree, and then he worked in recordings of concrete sounds whose unprofiled contours unravelled the strict lay-out of the course – as in the ‘Kompositionen 3 and 4/1’. –Dieter Schnebel

Art by Carol Bove

Krzysztof Penderecki – Psalmus (1961)

Psalmus, which was realised in collaboration with the sound engineer Eugeniusz Rudnick, is to date the only electroacoustic work by Penderecki. His basic material stems solely from a recording of two voices (soprano and baritone) so treated that they provide long holding-notes developing in pitch, dynamics, and colour, alternating with short impulses which display to advantage the great variety of inflection proper to the Polish language.

Art by Domenico Zampieri

Daria Semegen – Arc: Music for Dancers, for electronics (1977)


The piece consists of five parts whose themes, tempos, and “orchestrations” are arranged in the shape of an arc (A B C B A). Each section is itself divided into a smaller arc (a b a). After a brief introduction of phrases in groups of three beats each, the first part begins with two motivic elements arranged in a simple question-answer idea: lower range sounds on the beat, and contrasting high echoed flourishes in alternation. Section B introduces both a new tempo and “orchestration” or sound texture, as well as a new motive featuring a tremolo effect on harsh sounds alternated in various patterns from one channel to the other. A six note ostinato appears toward the middle of this section and is gradually integrated into a polyphonic pasage. Section C’s theme resembles an orchestral “tutti” and is followed by a variation of the tremolo idea and echo figurations heard previously. Although the music is essentially tonal and establishes various temporary tonal centers throughout, microtones and the characteristically rich textures of electronic sound sources provide dissonant impressions counterbalancing the tonal aspects.

The work was composed using a Buchla series 200 synthesizer and classic studio techniques. The music tape was synchronized at Bell Telephone Labs with the program of the Mimi Garrard Dance Theatre’s portable computer-controlled lighting system by Mimi Ganard and James Seawright in preparation for Arc’s first presentation in May of 1977. –Daria Semegen

Art by R. H. Quaytman

Bernard Herrmann – PSYCHO: A Narrative for String Orchestra (1960)

psycho RSD (1)

Bernard Herrmann’s use of orchestral color was never more ingenious than in this legendary, much-imitated score, written in 1960 for string orchestra only, in which he created what he called a “black and white sound” to mirror Psycho’s stark, black and white images.

Originally, Hitchcock requested that no music be written for the shower murder of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh). Ever true to his own instincts, Herrmann ignored his employer, believing the sequence needed scoring for full impact. According to the composer, at the recording session Hitchcock listened with approval to the score, then expressed regret that he had asked for no music during the shower scene. A beaming Herrmann confessed that he had written something anyway — would Hitch like to hear it? The director listened to the cue, and immediately overruled his own “improper suggestion.”

For decades, film theorists have analyzed the multiple meanings suggested by Herrmann’s shrieking violins, which have been said to reflect the stabbing knife, Marion’s screams, even bird cries that may be a clue to Marion’s killer (taxidermist Norman Bates, who fills his office with dead birds). When asked what he had intended to convey, Herrmann replied with a single word: “terror.”

The Suite, assembled by the composer in the 1960s, closely follows the film’s narrative: Marion’s impulsive theft of $40,000 from her Phoenix employer; her meeting with Norman and her subsequent murder; Norman’s disposal of her body; the slaughter of the detective on her trail; and Norman’s capture and incarceration, in a cell where he chillingly assures us in a final voice-over that he “wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

The Berliner Philharmoniker performed the piece as a part of the Musikfest Berlin 2015.

William Hellermann – Ariel, for electronics (1967)

The name Ariel is related to Shakespeare’s character in The Tempest: the music isn’t. I chose this name for my piece only because it sounded appropriate to the music. Not because the music was especially poetic or playful, but because Ariel suggests to me a transformation of spirit, the ability to change shape at will.

In listening to Ariel, it might also be helpful to know that it was not designed to illustrate any technical process or aesthetic dogma; nor was it intended to create any visual images. It is a composed performance, not a composition. A performance, because all its events are the result of live operations in real time, not the result of careful measuring and splicing. Composed, because many separate performances were then transformed, made to have new significance, by being placed in relation to each other. The performing medium was an electronic music studio: the basic sound source was a gong. –William Hellermann

Art by Winslow Homer

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