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2008 Ensemble

Choral

For mixed ensemble of recorders and Paëtzold flutes

Written on invite by Antonio Politano for the PRIME project (2008),

Päetzold Recorder Investigation for Music with Electronics.

In collaboration with the recorder classes of Haute Ecole de Musique in Lausanne, of Hochschule für Musik Franz Liszt in Weimar, of Hochschule für Musik und Theater Felix Mendelssohn in Leipzig, of Universität der Künst in Berlin, and of Koninklijk Conservatorium in The Hague.

Performed in Lausanne, Weimar, Leipzig, Berlin, The Hague (2008); in Lausanne, Geneva, Zürich, Venice, Leipzig (2010)

Sound engeneer & Live Electronics: Alessandro Ratoci & Andrea Sarto

conducted by Antonio Politano

Instrumentation onstage:

1 sopranino recorder in F
1 soprano recorder in C
1 contralto recorder in F
1 tenor recorder in C
1 bassetto Paëtzold flute in F
1 bass Paëtzold flute in C
1 double bass Paëtzold flute in F
1 double bass Paëtzold flute in C

Instrumentation offstage :

2 soprano recorders in C
1 contralto recorder in F
1 tenor recorder in C

live electronic elaboration

Choral represents an attempt to disarticulate the choral by Bach Jesu Leiden, Pein und Tod in its constituent elements, that is to say in the cadences that segment its form and in the use of groups of characteristic phonemes [t], [k], [s], that punctuate in a specific way its musical flow. One version of the choral has been extracted from the Johannes-Passion, to be precise from the final choral of the first part, Petrus, der nicht denkt zurück. In the other extant versions too, on some stops appear some quadriads of seventh of dominant reversed once. This is absolutely not an isolated case in Bach's production - as is shown, for instance, by the famous "Es ist genug" of the Cantata BWV 60, inserted by Alban Berg in his Violin Concerto - though in most cases the musical discourse of the choral is indeed exclusively stopped by the triads in their fundamental state. So I considered such a chord as the harmonic center which founds the composition. The other constituent element of the choral I took into consideration is the whole of the phonemes that are characteristic of the German language, [t], [k], [s] - and also the sound [∫] - ; standing out as distinct impulses above the harmonic concatenations, they allow a clear deciphering of the text sung. These phonemes, on the one hand, are directly pronounced by the flute-players and, on the other hand, are replaced with an alteration by the articulations of tongue and the taps of key made on the instrument itself (cf. legend). On the formal point of view, the piece can be divided into two sections. The first (bars 1-50) mimics the articulation in sentences and the stops of the choral form ; divided again into 12 parts, that are always more compressed, it presents, at the end of each part, a quadriad of seventh of dominant reversed once (in the part of the Paëtzold flute quartet). In the second part (bars 51-70), the quadriads of seventh of dominant reversed once are "freezed" in the temporal flow ; in this case too the elements used are compressed. In the last part (bar 71 to the end), the introduction of the voice, combined with the instrumental sound and the apparition of a transformed fragment of Bach's choral - played offstage by a quartet of recorders - provokes an important semantic gap: the vocal sound produces the phonemes [i], [e], [s], [u] - an obvious recall of the first word of the title of the choral, Jesu - whereas the quotation of the choral opens the horizon of listening to a historicized musical object. Now the necessity of the apparition of such an object can be more or less obvious, if it is weighed with the type of musical discourse developed from the very moment of its introduction. It is certainly a remarkable semantic rupture, but, to my mind, not a linguistic incoherence. Actually, if the general timber of the composition is considered, it appears homogenous at a general level and changing at a local one. This is due to one factor, the use of the pressure of the breath as a variable that determines the perceived quality of the sound - the timber: the spectrum of the flutes remarkably varies if one blows pppp - or, as I indicated, underblow - or ffff - overblow. Inside such a field of possibilities is also the well educated sound of the baroque recorder, that actually also emerges in the first part of the composition. The electronic transformation of the instrumental sound only emphasizes the timber changes due to the variations of the breath pressure: harmonizers sensitive to the sound intensity dynamically transpose the sounds toward the high notes of a variable factor, from the 12th to the 19th. The other element that characterizes the electronic is the diffusion of vowel sounds - the phonemes [a] and [e] - registered before and transformed through a process of granulation.