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]

Giacinto Scelsi – Trio for Strings (1951)

From the late 1970s, he met several leading interpreters who have promoted his music all over the world and gradually opened the gates to wider audiences, such as the Arditti String Quartet, the cellist Frances-Marie Uitti, the pianists Yvar Mikhashoff and Marianne Schroeder. Scelsi was a friend and a mentor to Alvin Curran and other expatriate American composers such as Frederic Rzewski who lived in Rome during the 1960s (Curran, 2003, in NewMusicBox). Scelsi also collaborated with other American composers including John Cage, Morton Feldman, and Earle Brown who visited him in Rome. Alvin Curran recalled that: “Scelsi … came to all my concerts in Rome even right up to the very last one I gave just a few days before he died. This was in the summer time, and he was such a nut about being outdoors. He was there in a fur coat and a fur hat. It was an outdoor concert. He waved from a distance, beautiful sparking eyes and smile that he always had, and that’s the last time I saw him” (Ross, 2005).

[via Lars Top-Galia]

Microtonal Fluctuation in Moods of All Colors

There was microtonal mayhem at Bargemusic on Friday night during the adventurous Flux Quartet’s performance in the Here and Now series.

The concert opened with Annie Gosfield’s dramatic “Lighthearted and Heavyhearted,” the most effective work on the program. Written in 2002, during a period in which Ms. Gosfield suffered from vertigo, her score incorporates microtones, glissandos and slashing gestures, shifting between somber and raucous moods. Intense, fiery sections alternate with moments of haunting solitude, all vividly illuminated by the ensemble, which performed with commitment throughout the evening.

Max Mandel, Flux’s violist, spoke briefly about Giacinto Scelsi’s String Quartet No. 5. (The other members of Flux are Tom Chiu and Conrad Harris, violinists; and Felix Fan, cellist.)

Scelsi (an Italian count who died in 1988) suffered a mental breakdown, after which he would play the same note on the piano repeatedly throughout the day. Much of his music uses only one pitch, and his abrasively tedious Fifth Quartet centers on F. Notes held over long periods are shaded with microtonal fluctuations and abruptly interrupted by staccato segments.

Read the full article in The New York Times here.