07 June 2007

Scelsi again

Lilitu (female voice) (1962): Is a short and quite rangy one movement work for female voice in the style of the Canti del Capricorno more the one note pieces. There is some repetition of figures - particularly a tritone figure in the highest range and some focus around E. This is expanded up to the G# and then down (though the pitch is higher) to C. So the ambitus is the third around E with the bottom half above.

String Quartet No. 4 (1964): One movement of extreme tension - this to me does not seem to be caused by timbre alone though no doubt timbre and dirtying of the sound is part of it. Rather the tension develops from the harmonies, the striving upward by quarter-tones that takes its time and moves back so we have the sense of continual ascent through important tones, not all tones. The tension builds continually and then it seems Scelsi doesn't know what to do perhaps - this is among his longest sustained arches - he changes course dramatically and rather effectively in the last few measures for an apotheosis of sorts. All instruments are at scordatura and the resulting sounds of the particular timbres on particular pitches give it a great timbral richness. I don't htink though that this is necessarily in the original conception. It sounds to me as if he is working with the pitches and ideas and then translating them to the instrument's bodies to the best of his ability, rather than writing through the instruments. In this way the timbral quality almost becomes a by-product of the linear nature of the sounds - obviously very influenced by electronic muisc - rather than a narrative aspect of the piece. This doesn't put down the sonic result which is stunning, it's just a question of what is primary.

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