Sunday, 17 March 2013

Climbing Music

It's all Cornelius Cardew's fault that I wrote a piece of music in my head on the way home on the bus from Gloucester today. You heard it here first. It stems from his scratch orchestra for making contemporary music accessible to amateur musicians. The piece I heard about is called "The Great Learning" and I thought to myself, I could do that with variations. My original bit is to play an orchestra as if it was a single musical instrument. A "soloist" stands in front of the orchestra-as-instrument like a conductor, but instead of conducting a score he/she improvises on the orchestral instrument within the compass of some set rules. Those set rules turn this experiment into a particular piece of music but one which will sound different every time it is played.  OK, this is how it works for what I'll call "Climbing Music". Every member of the orchestra waits until the soloist points at them and then they begin to play the key note of a scale, e.g., a low G in the key of G major. They continue to play it until the soloist points at them again and then they move to the next note in the scale, A, etc. When each player reaches the leading note, F sharp, their next one will be back to the low G.

The effect should be of a gradual musical hill climb with shifting harmonics, harmonies and dischords partially under the soloists control but largely open to chance. To make it more interesting (and this is what Cardew did), another rule is that if a player gets bored playing a note, they can move on to the next one without being "triggered" by the soloist, but they can only do this if they are moving in unison with another player. I'm going to try this out on some unsuspecting group of musicians. Hopefully, the musical hill climb will end naturally and spontaneously at some point. Anyone like to be there at the premiere?

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