<= 2003.04.23

2003.04.25 =>

sator resatus

I've gotten far enough into the Webern set to discover Konzert, opus 24, which is supposedly based off that multidimensional Latin palindrome he had inscribed on his tombstone. I'm not sure. My ear isn't good enough to catch many of the serialist head games, and it isn't as immediately pretty as many of the earlier pieces. Here's what the liner notes say:

Concerto for nine instruments, Op. 24 (1934)

This Concerto is a supreme example of Webern's strict(-ly musical) application of disciplined procedures and of his continual striving for the perfection of "comprehensibility... the ultimate principle in the presentation of musical thought." This clarity of presentation as achieved by an absolute 'rightness' of internal balance... "by relating everything to what is already present in the principle [did they mean principal? I think Germans wrote this -Ed.] part: by repeating it in various combinations, by introducing the course of thematic events not only horizontally but vertically; by aspiring toward an all-embracing unity, deriving as much as possible from one principal idea."

This is music of small dimensions, shorn of all expansive gestures and of any desire to create musical 'vistas.' In the first movement, tiny, three-note motifs (all of which are interrelated in melodic structure) are rhythmically defined in notes of varying lengths, and articulated with every conceivable differentiation of attack by the single-line instruments—as well as being formed into chords on the piano. A continual ebbing and flowing of the tempo punctuates the phrase-endings—characterizing the movement with a restless energy.

In the subdued Adagio of the second movement, the same melodic material is so organized that the slow-moving piano chords (which are often grouped in threes, across the two-beats-to-the-bar rhythm of the governing pulse) form a background entirely built from intervals of thirds and sevenths. These chords provide the central thread around which the other instruments trace a widely-spaced melody of contrasting colours. As in the first movement, shapes, pitches and melodic configurations return in a quasi recapitulatory manner—but only with the purpose of placing themselves in yet other contexts.

The third movement is an abrupt reversal of mood: its springing staccato attacks and syncopated rhythms approach a brash abandon—especially in the insistently misplaced accents of the fortissimo coda—which is unique in Webern's output. The three-note motifs and chords are as evident here as in the previous movements, so that the work as a whole has the unity of a set of variations—being three different characterizations of the same threefold idea.

Note that they're adhering to the typographic rules of British English: no serial comma in an essay about serialism! Oh, the irony! Okay, I've been spending too much time alone if I find that funny. I will repeat that the palindrome is still better than the big block of tofu they buried Schoenberg under.

My digital drummer showed up. So long as he doesn't pull a Spinal Tap on me, we're good to go.

 

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