This week is a little Ligeti heavy but, he is on the list quite a bit and they are all in the top 30. Hope you enjoy and share some of your favorite pieces! As you will see, almost every piece came from a friend or colleague's introduction.
Ligeti is without a doubt one of my favorite composers. Why then, you ask, are his compositions not farther up on the list? To which, I reply, they are. Keep your pants on. His ability for texture and gesture is simply amazing. His sense of time and proportion are phenomenal. Knowing the "just right" amount of time to let material play out is something I always struggle with (as I imagine most other composers have this struggle as well). Ligeti's sense is usually spot on. Material lasts longer than you think it should but ends just before it would get to be "too long."
Where his first String Quartet fits nicely into the genre as a masterful work, his second is a simply a general masterpiece. I'm trying to find the right description. Let's see if this makes sense.
His first string quartet could be titled "Music for String Quartet." His second could be titled "Music."
There is something so pure about this work, so organic as if it simply flowed from him onto paper. I truly admire a composer that can make a piece sound as if it was effortlessly composed. And it has an absolutely killer ending.
When I was at the University of Arizona, my friend Jason gave a wonderful analytical presentation on this piece. I didn't realize the inherent harmonic complexity in the piece. For a casual listener, the piece is a pleasant post-minimal ride for about 5 minutes.
During my doctorate, I took piece lessons with my good friend Linda. I didn't really want to do the typical stuff that piano students learn and play. I suggested that I learn this piece. After all, there isn't a ton of technique required to play the piece. It is mostly mental stamina due to the fact that it is just constant notes and ever-changing overlapping patterns for 5 minutes. It was really fun playing the piece, but a really intense learning process. Some people just do not have the will to play minimalist music. I thought since I'd played Reich and Riley before, this would be a breeze. WRONG! But, it truly made me appreciate the piece even more. At a time when piece lengths were usually about 15-20 minutes, this 5 minute work is short, sweet, and compact. It is one of those little gems from the 20th century.
My friend, Daniel Zajicek introduced me to this piece. He presented it at a composer's seminar that he was giving about electronic music. The work explores the physics of sound. Here is the story.
Laporte recorded a cooling compressor of a skating rink. He set up metal covers and PVC pipes around the compressor in which to inset microphones to alter the timbre and isolate specific frequencies. This 26-minute piece was recorded in one take with absolutely NO sound editing or manipulating post recording. In order to get the perfect take, Laporte attempted recording more than 200 times to get everything just right. Is this electronic music or is this merely an electronic capture of a live performance to an audience of one?
To be able to appreciate this music, you have to love sound. I mean, LOVE IT. You have to want to live in sounds and explore them. You have to be comfortable with slow movement. You have to have a discerning ear. Many lay-listeners would just say that the first 10 minutes of this piece are all the same. You have to want to focus on different aspects of the sound.
I use this piece in my electronic music courses to teach kids about experimental or non-traditional recording methods. We bring in all kinds of object through which to record sound to see how different objects filter sounds in different ways. It is always a highlight of the class because it is so hands-on and the results are immediately apparent. Instead of putting EQ on a sound, perhaps record it through a tube. All of the effects that Laporte gets in this recording could have been done using a computer.
But, they weren't.
It is a testament to the richness in live sound that can be coaxed out if one is truly listening.
(flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano)
Once again, this piece was introduced to me through a colleague. Chris Goddard was a Masters student at Rice during my first year. On one Friday, Chris, Dan Zajicek, my best friend Stephen Bachicha and I gathered in the Electronic Music Labs to listen to some music together. It was the first meeting of what would become, Listening Friday where composers got together to share pieces they were into. No scores, no faculty. Just listening and discussing and then on to the grad student pub for friday afternoon beers. Dan brought a John Young electro-acoustic piece. I can't remember if Steve brought anything. I brought the piece that is 2nd on this list (stay tuned!). Chris brought this piece. It wasn't my first experience with microtonal music but, I think it had a bigger impact on me than other pieces. The idea of spectralism was new to me and I immediately fell in love with it. Also, it has an absolutely killer ending.
(female soloists, two choirs, orchestra)
Does the title of the blog finally make sense? Maybe not? Stanley Kubrick used Ligeti's Requiem in 2001: a space odyssey.
And then got sued for it. Bam! Don't try to make money from other people's work.
But, it was Ligeti's score that made me fall in love with and be horribly creeped out by the film as a kid. The music is so intense and unlike anything I'd ever heard before. It put the hook in me. All the things I said about Ligeti above certainly apply. Enjoy.