self-portrait with Webern, Carter, and Crumb (und Ligeti ist auch dabei)
Date Completed: Spring '03
Part of Series: brokenAphorisms
(Please note: this is one of my favorite scores. Like all Aphorism scores it is designed to be a visual complement to the work itself, but this one is specifically designed to be be completely readable in performance.
Recording: Can be found on Soundcloud or through this embedded player:
Performed by: Ben Jackle (viola) and Pat Muchmore (cello)
This piece contains the first six members of my brokenAphorism series. Thus, the score is more visually complex than is standard, and the pieces are all relatively short, fragmented compositions. The subtitle is a reference to a composition by György Ligeti entitled Selbstportrait mit Reich und Riley (und Chopin ist auch dabei), repurposed to showcase my piece's indebtedness to Webern (brevity), Carter (different instruments embodying different "characters"), Crumb (visual score) and Ligeti (title and textural focus). The individual movements are a simple version of the code that characterizes all brokenAphorism titles which can be read about on the series page.
Here's what I wrote for an earlier version of my website back around the time the piece was written:
[brokenAphorisms_1-6] is a piece for viola and cello written as an homage to composers who have recently been influencing me deeply (namely: Anton Webern, Elliot Carter, Gyorgy Ligeti, and George Crumb). However, their influences are felt more behind the scenes than in the immediate musical suface. For instance, the brevity of the individual pieces was inspired by Webern and many aspects of the graphic score (including bent staff systems and circular segments) were clearly inspired by Crumb's beautiful calligraphy.
The piece was written as five short pieces which were then "broken" and scattered across the space of six movements. The result includes sharp shifts from incredibly violent passages using glissandi and unhinged tremolo bowing to atmospheric harmonics and melodies. Once the initial oddities of the score and the (not very) extended techniques such as harmonic double-stops and violent glissandi are conquered, the work is not terribly technically challenging. Still, the violent intensity and sudden shifts of timbre can be quite demanding, and the players are called upon to listen to and watch each other carefully. It was a lot of fun to put together when I performed it with my friend Ben Jackle.
It's strange to read that several years later. The tone sounds very unfamiliar to me, though the description seems apt enough. It's strange how distant I feel from even relatively recent versions of myself. I suppose that kind of reflection belongs in the next section.
Like I said above, reading how I initially thought about this piece is familiar yet unfamiliar at the same time. I wouldn't change the description exactly, and this work sounds more or less like something I'd write today several years later, but the odd feeling persists. Maybe it's because my brain hasn't been working well for the last month, I don't know.
The first of these movements was written for a group composition class I was taking from Bruch Saylor at the CUNY Graduate Center during the height of my studies, and felt like an important new step in my compositional direction. I was embracing even less linearity than in my (relatively new at the time) Fracture series, and it has since become my most abstract outlet (I think). I've particularly loved writing new pieces in this series because I love playing with ergodic notation—in fact, there are currently (as of mid-2011) nearly 30 members of this series which dwarves any others I've been exploring.
COMING SOON (maybe)