Aileen Campbell, Eva-Maria Houben, Jean-Philippe Gross, Jerome Noetinger, Klaus Filip, Michael Pisaro, Neil Davidson, Nikos Veliotis, Radu Malfatti, Seymour Wright, Taku Unami & Toshimaru Nakamura

An Unrhymed Chord

From really simple, open instructions, An Unrhymed Chord creates a kind of half-way point between composition and improvisation, and an opportunity for really detailed, subtle and engaging music. With Aileen Campbell, Neil Davidson, Klaus Filip, Jean-Philippe Gross, Eva-Maria Houben, Radu Malfatti, Toshimaru Nakamura, Jérôme Noetinger, Michael Pisaro, Taku Unami, Nikos Veliotis, Seymour Wright.

An Unrhymed Chord is based on a very open, simple score, for any number of musicians. It simply says that the performance should last 65 mins (two 30min halves with a five minute silent interlude). Musicians can chose any sound to make, but must make it for between one and 15 mins in each half. The length of the sound should be inversely proportional to its volume: short = comfortable, long = very quiet.

 

Michael is a guitarist, improviser and composer from LA.  He’s closely associated with the Wandleweiser group of musicians (which also features Radu Malfatti and Eva-Maria Houben (among others) and which has close links with Taku Unami and a bunch of others in Japan also).  If you check out Michael’s page on the Wandleweiser website  (www.timescraper.de.  It has a really good online radio station, by the way.) there’s an impressive/ intimidating number of scores there  (Like, 114 of them!).  His music is focused, has to do with paying attention, with chance, and often (and is the case here) with instructional scores (Instead of telling a musician exactly what notes to play, when and with what intensity, these scores set out limits and binds within which to work.  There’s a rich 20th Century seam of these kinds of scores.  A good example being Composition 1960 #10 by La Monte Young, which in its entirety reads: “Draw a straight line and follow it.”  Lee Patterson and Luke Fowler performed this score at KYTN 08.).

 

What is he suggesting these musicians do? Here’s the score in its entirety. An unrhymed chord for any number of performers sixty-five minutes long — two periods of thirty minutes each, with a five minute silence between them each performer finds one sound, preferably with pitch this sound is played for one duration, between one and fifteen minutes, in each thirty minute period, making sure, in the first period, not to cross over into the silence the duration of the sound may change from one period to the next one of the durations may be zero seconds (i.e., a player might decide not to play in one of the sections) the sound may be sustained for the whole length of the duration chosen — or if it is impossible to sustain the sound for the duration, long sounds may be repeated at regular intervals the loudness of the sound is in inverse proportion to its duration — i.e., the longer the duration, the softer the sound the one minute duration should be a comfortable mp (mp stands for mezzo-piano, which means "moderately soft".); a fifteen minute duration will be nearly inaudible.

 

Why is it interesting?

 

We’re interested in the intermixing of composition and improvisation, and this is a fine example of one approach.  It’s an incredibly open score, it leaves lots of space: to any musicians, instrument, or sound.  But it also sets up a very specific set of conditions, which mold or give structure to those sounds.  There’s control and freedom, order and chance. Of the recordings I’ve heard of this score there is always a very interesting tension present.  Like: who is making which sound, when will it end, it’s being made with no specific knowledge of what other sounds will be made at the same time, yet experientially I hear them all together.  There is a removal, or maybe even a reframing or placing at arms length of intention on the part of the musicians performing.  It’s a different way of structuring musical interaction, maybe it still gives too much power to the composer, maybe not.  What do you think? And I like it because it also makes a very clear statement about Michael’s thinking.  His thought is very clear and understandable in this piece.  Is that thinking interesting to you?  And then so, what space does it leave for the musicians to think: enough, not enough, too much? Will their thoughts be clear also?  Will they have some truth to them?

 

Here’s the score in its entirety:

 

an unrhymed chord
for any number of performers

sixty-five minutes long
— two periods of thirty minutes each, with a five minute silence between them

each performer finds one sound, preferably with pitch

this sound is played for one duration, between one and fifteen minutes, in each thirty minute period, making sure, in the first period, not to cross over into the silence

the duration of the sound may change from one period to the next

one of the durations may be zero seconds (i.e., a player might decide not to play in one of the sections)

the sound may be sustained for the whole length of the duration chosen
— or if it is impossible to sustain the sound for the duration, long sounds may be repeated at regular intervals

the loudness of the sound is in inverse proportion to its duration
— i.e., the longer the duration, the softer the sound
the one minute duration should be a comfortable mp; a fifteen minute duration will be nearly inaudible.
 

 

The musicians were groups at 3 little platforms in the space:

(1) Pisaro, Nakamura, Campbell, Noetinger
(2) Filip, Houben, Veliotis, Gross
(3) Malfatti, Davidson, Unami, Wright

 

Michael asked that no documentation was made during the performance.

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