25 June 2007

Scelsi some more

Ko-Lho (1966): For flute and clarinet and a minor work. We get the sense of a continuum of sound that is sustained between the two instruments. Somewhere half between the solo and duo works of the late fifties and early sixties and the unison works like the Duo.

Elegia per Ty (1958/1966): In three movments and scored for viola and cello, this is elegiac though I wonder how much I'm being pulled in by the title. Ty was a pet name for Scelsi's wife, if I recall correctly. The first movment, based around Gb and F quarter-sharp gives off a remarkable keening in the beating between the cello double stops and viola lines. The second movement more dramatic with its powerful octaves. Overall moving, breathing, calming piece. Notice the use of nonpitched pizzicati. I read somewhere that in the trnascriptions, Scelsi would want everything on the tape transcribed - getting into the sound perhaps? - including the noise of the street, the tape hiss, the occasional knock of the radiatior. Could this be the daily life of Scelsi intruding on the composition and enlivening it? I find myself when listening to my old recordings that I expect the cough, I expect the paper turn - I even at one point incorporated sound from the recording - paper rustling - into a very early piece of mine. You get used to the wrong notes and they become the right ones.

Ohoi (1966): One big inexorable siren-like work of 8 miniutes for strings. Ascends from an ominous chord to louder and higher range always with interesting ornament. Doesn't really climax instead gets loud and then peters out. Could not get the score.

Uaxuctum (1966): The real Uaxuctun - "eight stones" in Mayan - and a pun on "Washington" - was a Mayan city close to Tikal that sruvived from the 4th century CE and was abandoned sometime after 900 CE. Scelsi's Uaxactum, the full title is "Uaxuctum: The Legend of the Maya City which destyroyed itself for religious reasons," programmatizes the mystery of this abandonment. For choir and orchestra in 5(?) movements. Ritualistic and strongly influenced by the breath - I get a sense very much like that of the people frozen running from Pompei. No doubt for Scelsi, Pompei would be in his mind even if Popol Vuh was in his library. So we hear the frozen sounds, the choir shouts at mezzo-forte. Fits in a vein of Scelsi's work that includes Yamaon and Hurqualia - Scelsi as prophet here - recreating this ritual act. I think also to really understand this we need to think of it in line with - now don't come down hard on me - Italian movie music - Morricone, the wordless choirs, the programs. Could not get the score.

Elohim (1965/67): Very much out of the ordinary for Scelsi, more like Xenakis. Alternation of differetly agitated chords with clusters. About four minutes and for strings. Striking. Very much about breathing, no doubt influential to spectralists. Could not get the score.

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