Discreet Music (1975) is an album [liner notes here] by the British ambient musician Brian Eno. While No Pussyfooting may be his first ambient album and Another Green World features many ambient pieces, this is Brian Eno’s first purely ambient solo album. It is also Eno’s first album to be released under his full name “Brian Eno”, as opposed to his previous rock albums released simply under the name “Eno”. Brian Eno’s concept of ambient music builds upon a concept composer Erik Satie called “furniture music”. This means music that is intended to blend into the ambient atmosphere of the room rather than be directly focused upon. The inspiration for this album began when Eno was left bed-ridden by an accident and was given an album of eighteenth century harp music. After struggling to put the record on the turntable and returning to bed, he realized that it was turned down toward the threshold of inaudibility and he lacked the strength to get up from the bed again and turn it up. Eno said this experience taught him a new way to perceive music. This album is also an experiment in algorithmic, generative composition. His intention was to explore multiple ways to create music with limited planning or intervention. The second half of the album is three pieces collectively titled “Three Variations on the Canon in D Major by Johann Pachelbel”. These pieces were performed by The Cockpit Ensemble, conducted and co-arranged by Gavin Bryars. The members of the ensemble were each given brief excerpts from the score, which were repeated several times, along with instructions to gradually alter the tempo and other elements of the composition. The titles of these pieces were derived from inaccurate French-to-English translations of the liner notes of a version of Pachelbel’s Canon performed by the orchestra of Jean Francois Paillard. In “Fullness of Wind” the tempo decreases relative to the pitch of the instrument. The violins have the fastest rate of decay while the basses have the slowest. This piece features effects and processing by Brian Eno. In “French Catalogues” notes and melodies of similar tempos are gathered into blocks from different parts of the score. In “Brutal Ardour” each performer plays a sequence of notes of a different duration, so the original composition eventually breaks down into chaos.
[via Bryan Black]
Maya Plisetskaya’s dance set to Ravel’s Bolero is a stunning theatrical experience. There is something hypnotic about the rocking motion she sustains from start to finish, as though all that dance requires is the simple moving of weight from one foot to another. One woman, 40 men: is there something about the situation that is too hostile? Too aggressively sexual? What if it were one man and 40 women? Now a version with all men (and Jorge Donn in Plisetskaya’s role) – what role does subject matter (in this case, sex and gender as subject matter) play in a work of art? [Source]
Ballet del Siglo XX
The People United Will Never Be Defeated! (1975) is a piano composition by American composer Frederic Rzewski. The People United is a set of 36 variations on the Chilean song “¡El pueblo unido jamás será vencido!” by Sergio Ortega and Quilapayún, and received its world premiere on February 7, 1976, played by Ursula Oppens as part of the Bi-Centennial Piano Series at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Concert Hall. Rzewski dedicated the composition to Oppens, who had commissioned it as a companion piece to Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations, and who recorded it in 1979; her recording was named “Record of the Year” in that year by Record World, and received a Grammy nomination. The song on which the variations is based is one of many that emerged from the Unidad Popular coalition in Chile between 1969 and 1973, prior to the overthrow of the Salvador Allende government. Rzewski composed the variations in September and October 1975, as a tribute to the struggle of the Chilean people against a newly imposed repressive regime; indeed the work contains allusions to other leftist struggles of the same and immediately preceding time, such as quotations from the Italian traditional socialist song “Bandiera Rossa” and the Bertolt Brecht-Hanns Eisler “Solidarity Song.” In general, the variations are short, and build up to climaxes of considerable force. The 36 variations, following the 36 bars of the tune, are in six groups of six. The pianist, in addition to needing a virtuoso technique, is required to whistle, slam the piano lid, and catch the after-vibrations of a loud attack as harmonics: all of these are “extended” techniques in 20th-century piano writing. Much of the work uses the language of 19th-century romanticism, but mixes this language with pandiatonic tonality, modal writing, and even serial techniques. As in the Goldberg Variations by Johann Sebastian Bach, the final variation is a direct restatement of the original theme, intended to be heard with new significance after the long journey through the variations.
[Dedicated to Eriko Makimura]
There is a live recording of the piece on this blog here.