29 May 2007

More Scelsi

Khoom (1962): 7 Movements in an unwritten love story from far away for soprano, string quartet, horn and percussion. Now I don't know what this has to do with the ridiculous title other than seem "exotic" but these are generally ok movements with the exception of IV which is actually quite lovely and tender - note the Carnatic shadow heterophony, and V which brings together the primitive power of Yamaon or Hurqualia and has harmony of all things. Worth hearing for these two alone and perhaps could have done with some editing.

20 Canti del Capricorno (1962 - 1972): These are compositions for solo voice and occasionally another instrument - percussion in a few and a surna-type in others. I haven't seen scores. They have a feeling of the sorts of improvisations one does with one's voice when trying to sound shamanistic - or else vocal improvisations I remember from my first year at Bennington with Frank Baker. Guttural shouts, r-k-d-k-t-p kind of rhythmic articulation. Strong indebtedness it seems to ponsori singing of Korea, though admittedly my knowledge of that is slight. A few stand out particularly - 4, 5 and the last which has no vocal soloist.

String Quartet No. 3 (1963): In five movements each appended by a "direction" reflecting a journey of a soul to some sort of mystical state. Interesting how there can be some many different moods from these simple movements on one note, or at best one chord. Remarkable moments, the flat submediant relation that pops up here ad there in movement four and the repeated E naturals at the end of the final movement. None of these are very long and development is not necessary, they last about as long as pop songs and about as long as it takes for one to be really into the sound and then it leaves, if it were longer it would, it seems, be too much - so in this way, although unsatisfying from a larger scale perspective, their proportions are just right. As to the interplay of timbres, I hear the various changes, but I'm uncertain if there is a conscious narrative of timbre, a conscious ompsing out of the timbres of the work. They seem more to me to be momentary and unattached beyond their immediate musical context. One at times hears an arch of dirtying up the sound and then returning to a clean sound, though, as well and this is certainly a composing out of a different aspect of the composition.

Hymnos (1963): Massively powerful work for massed orchestra and organ, an enormous challenge no doubt for any recording engineer. It is said that an overtone hymn emerges from the sound of this at some point, but I must admit in hearing the work many many times over the years and beiung aware and listening for this sound, I have no clue as to where it is or what it is. I would love to see a score or else have someone point out this mystery overtone chorale, though I'm doubtful of its existence. Nonetheless, this is a sonic marvel, an exciting visceral work in a loud-soft-loud sort of form.

Chukrum (1963): For strings alone, it does have quite a bit of Psycho in it, with its jabbing downbows over single pitches. Not of the caliber as some of the other works, particularly Hymnos.

Oleho (solo voice or choir and 2 gongs) (1963): No score - no recording

Xnoybis (1964): In three movements and scored for solo violin, this seems to be on one level a study for Anahit. Uses the one-staff-per-string notation, which allows for some compositional freedom particularly when it comes o the timbre of a single pitch which now can be spread easily (at least to the eye) between several strings - this could be exploited more. For the most part there are variations around single pitches throughout exploiting the combination of open and stopped string owing tot he scordatura. In a way the new notation serves its function well. Not too long and constantly interesting.

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