Chapter 80Alternatives to Serialism: Chance, Electronics, Textures
Chance Music• Following WW II, modern music took on a variety of styles and compositional methods in addition to serialism.• One of the most novel was the making of compositional choices by chance (chance music) – an approach associated with the music of the American composer John Cage (around 1950)
Characteristics of John Cage’s Music• Cage’s Music of Changes for piano is notated in detail – but the compositional choices are made from a number of options by chance routines.• Earlier, Cage had written more traditional types of music, often for “prepared piano” – an instrument converted into a virtual percussion ensemble.• In works composed later in the 1950’s , Cage used a style that he termed “indeterminacy of performance ” – where he turned decisions about what to play almost entirely over to performers.• His involvement with a “composition” dwindled to brief graphic notations and verbal scores .
The Life of John Cage (1912– 1992)• 1912 - born in Los Angeles• 1928-30 - attends Pomona College in Claremont, CA• 1942 - moves to New York• 1951 - introduces chance elements into compositions• 1958 - lecture and musical performances at Darmstadt• 1992 - dies in New York
John Cage’s Reasoning Behind Chance Music• to remove the “glue” between musical sounds and events• to let sounds be sounds , neither more or less• to remove the personality of the composer• to allow the listener to focus on sounds per se
Principal Compositions of John Cage• Prepared piano : works include Sonatas and Interludes• Percussion ensemble : works include Imaginary Landscape Nos. 1-3• Piano: include Music of Changes and 4’33”• Chance pieces: a large number of pieces of flexible medium
John Cage, Music of Changes , 1951, part 1Through composed form based on number sequence
Electronic Music• Another postwar alternative to serialism was the composition of electronic music .• An early version was “musique concrète” – electronic music made from recordings of natural or man-made sounds. – are manipulated electronically and reassembled on disc or tape in a musical form.• Other composers opted for pure electronic music – in which the source of sounds were produced by electronic devices .• Edgar Varèse’s Poème électronique (1958) uses both approaches.
The Life of Edgard Varèse (1883–1965)• 1883 - born in Paris, grows up in Turin, Italy• 1903 - enters the Schola Cantorum in Paris• 1907-13 - lives mainly in Berlin• 1913-15 - lives in Paris• 1915 - emigrates to America• 1921 - founds the International Composers Guild in New York• 1928-33 - returns to France• 1958 - attracts attention for electronic music at the Brussels Worlds Fair• 1965 - dies in New York
Principal Compositions by Edgard Varèse• Orchestra and chamber orchestra : works include – Amériques – Hyperprism – Octandre – Intégrales – Arcana – Ionisation• Voice with instrumental accompaniment : works include – Offrandes – Ecuatorial – Metal – Nocturnal• Works with electronic sounds on tape – Poème électronique – Déserts
Edgard Varèse, Poème électronique , 1958Through-composed form
Experimenting with New Musical Textures• Composers following WW II also experimented with new musical textures – alternatives to the traditional homophony and polyphony.• Varèse praised the value of “sound masses” – conglomorations of sound in which no single tones or intervals are apparent.• In his piano study “Mode de valueurs et d’intensités,” Messiaen linked together – the choice of register – duration, dynamic level – attack to produce a “pointillistic” texture – in this approach, individual tones seem to leap out without association into lines or chords.
The Life of Olivier Messiaen (1908– 1992)• 1908 - born in Avignon, France• 1919–29 - attends Paris Conservatory (composition with Paul Dukas)• 1931 - appointed organist at the Church of the Trinity in Paris• 1936–39 - with Daniel-Lesur, Yves Baudrier, and André Jolivet forms “La Jeune France” to seek alternatives to neoclassicism• 1941 - begins teaching at the Paris Conservatory• 1950s - ornithological interests expressed by imitating bird song in music• 1992 - dies in Paris
Principal Compositions by Olivier Messiaen• Orchestra: character pieces and larger works including – Turangalîla Symphony – From the Canyons to the Stars• Songs: numerous collections on his own poetry• Chamber music : includes the Quartet for the End of Time (violin, clarinet, cello, piano)• Organ music: character pieces including the Messe de la Pentecôte• Piano: preludes, etudes, bird song pieces
Olivier Messiaen, “Mode de valeurs et d’intensités,” 1949Summary of the mode of pitches, durations, attack types, and dynamic levels in this work:Through-composed formTop lineMiddle lineBottom line