Giacinto Scelsi – Aitsi for amplified piano (1974)

In 1974 Scelsi employed the piano for the last time when he created Aitsi for amplified piano and To the Master (two improvisations in collaboration with Victoria Parr) for cello and piano. Assuming a special position within Scelsi’s compositional output, his works for piano shed not only light on his outstanding pianistic talent and his abilities as an improviser, but they indicate major changes in his compositional development. Twelve-tone procedures in his early piano works reveal the influence of Schoenberg, Berg and Webern. In his search of the “depth” of sound and its microtonal qualities, the piano with its half-tone step limitation could no longer correspond to his artistic ideas; and as a consequence he stopped composing for this instrument in 1956. However, Scelsi did not discard the piano, which had served as one of his imperative composing aids since the mid-forties. Instead, he employed the “ondiolina,” an electric keyboard instrument which made possible quarter-tone differentiation. Aitsi, Scelsi’s last work for amplified piano solo of 1974, in which the sustained pitches are distorted, incidentally originated due to a malfunction of his tape recorder. It was ultimately arranged for string quartet in 1985. [Source]



[via Thomas Bjørnseth on ATONALITY.NET]

Beat Furrer – Nuun for 2 pianos and ensemble (1996)

Thomas Bjørnseth from Norway just posted this piece by Swiss composer Beat Furrer on the contemporary music blog Atonality.net.

About the composer:

Beat Furrer (born 6 December 1954) is an Austrian composer and conductor of Swiss birth. Born in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, Furrer relocated to Vienna in 1975 to pursue studies with Roman Haubenstock-Ramati (composition) and Otmar Suitner (conducting). In 1985 he co-founded what is now one of Europe’s leading contemporary music ensembles, Klangforum Wien, which he still conducts. Recent awards and honors include the Music Prize of the City of Vienna in 2003 and the Golden Lion, for the monodrama “FAMA,” at the 2006 Venice Biennale. Since 1991, he has served as professor of composition at the Graz University of Music and Dramatic Arts. The 25th anniversary of the Klangforum Wien was celebrated in 2010 at the Wittener Tage für neue Kammermusik with the premiere of his Xenos-Szenen for eight voices and ensemble.

About the work:

Just as the mythical goddess “NU” (compare Robert Graves, “The White Goddess”) was able to stop time still, in nuun the apparently overwhelming impetus of flowing sounds is slowly brought to a stop; purely mechanical energy is transformed into living energy. In Beat Furrer’s work for two pianos and orchestra, the central principle is transformation, specifically on the rhythmic, harmonic and tonal planes, as a continuous process from the beginning to the end. nuun is an almost unparalleled example of Furrer’s breadth of expression. The work goes from a thoroughly concise beginning to the final, lonely sound of the piano that eventually fades away into silence. Elements are slowly filtered out of the initial complexity, layers dissolve, making structures evident that were originally embedded in repetitive models as part of an overall sound. The composer’s intention was to “make evident the energy of movements and powers which form the substance of the music and go beyond it .” Beat Furrer compares this musical intention of the work to the “fine differentiations in colours that one recognizes as a result of observing a monochrome painting for a long time.” There is no need to add the notice: “shadowlike” (schattenhaft), on one of the last pages of the score to understand the parallels to Feldman’s favourite analogies. The shadowy sound of Beat Furrer’s composition is even related to the gentle graduality of a Morton Feldman composition in its radically different conception. The relationship even goes as far as the notation: nuun starts with a tiny rest for all of the instruments – a finesse taken from Feldman’s metaphysics. [Read more].

The music:

Get the sheet music here.