thumbnail of Contemporary Music in Evolution; 24; 1954
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
In the last few weeks we have been dealing with works composed in 1054. On this program we have two final works that belong to that year and they are both involved with the electronic medium. Their works by Stockhausen and I gave as Stockhausen's piece is his electronic study number two. In the past few weeks in connection with certain pioneer electronic compositions I have spoken at length on the series about the musical technical and philosophical plays on data of electronic music. And I cannot of course recapitulate these five fundamentals every time I play a new electronic piece. I must now assume that the average listener to this series is prepared to accept the new medium. At least there is something here to stay. And as a legitimate artistic expression of our time. Whether he actually learns to love understand this music is another question. And if he doesn't accept this music I cannot help him
now with any further basic explanations or justifications. I just can't go over the same ground every time a new electronic word comes up. Stockhausen created this second electronic study a year after the first one. And on the whole it resulted in a much more interesting more concise and more sophisticated experiment. I do think one is justified in labeling the study still as experimental. In view of its self-imposed limitations and its avowed purpose in exploring a certain very limited set of electronic possibilities also experimental in view of Stockhausen's electronic masterpiece Gunday Jung linger which was to follow two years later and which certainly can no longer be called merely experimental and which competes rather successfully in my opinion anyway with other works of musical art in the broadest and highest definition you care to give that term. It is one of the paradoxes of contemporary musical developments that some of the most
advanced concepts of musical technique and organization are in some ways more easy to understand by the non-musician and laymen than is conventional music. Leaving aside for a moment the quality of the music involved it is possible for a non musician for example to get something perhaps quite a lot out of studying scores notated in the graphic techniques developed in recent years especially those that do away entirely with conventional staff and note head notation. And this is true of Stockhausen's electronic study. The score which is available to anyone interested in buying it. It is published by universal edition of Vienna and is available here and any good music store. I'm suggesting this because while a layman may not be able to read a score of a Schubert symphony he absolutely can read the score of Stockhausen's electronic study because it is notated in a graph format that is almost as elementary as that of the stock exchange in your
daily newspaper. Do you metrical shapes are notated on graph paper which by their proportionate size and contours give an exact representation of the pitch level duration texture and intensity of the sounds of that piece. It's like looking at a visual representation or a visual translation of the musical sounds. An introduction in the score also explains in three languages the technical procedures used in the composition briefly Stockhausen chose to work with in a frequency scale of 81 steps from 100 cycles to about 17000 cycles and within this range she creates a creates mixtures of constant intervals made up of five so-called sinusoidal tones. By a system which it is not possible to explain verbally on the radio. Stockhausen builds from this limited sound source a repertoire of
193 different note or sinusoidal mixtures. Then in the actual composition these are varied in the following three ways. They vary in dynamics or intensities in duration and in terms of the number of mixtures occurring simultaneously or overlapping as overlapping in their temporal placement. As for the dynamics again an arbitrary scale of 31 steps was chosen from Zero Decibels to minus 30 D.B.. With these technical and Sonora limits as a basic premis Stockhausen then went on to composing the work which consists of a continuous variation of and play between the four elements pitch level duration intensity and simultaneity of sound structures. At first glance it is obvious that the possibilities even when within such a confined
area are quite broad and even seemingly endless. For example a certain note mixture at a specific pitch level can be made to increase in volume either slowly or rapidly or decrease in volume either slowly or rapidly. All of course in an endless variety of degrees of rapidity or slowness. The same pitch structure can be extremely short can be extremely long or any other duration in between. On it can be super imposed. Other note mixtures. Again with different dynamic curves and durations and so on almost ad infinitum to the whole network of interlacing relationships can be set to work. This is true of course of all music. But some people wish to deny these musical factors. These are not technical or mechanical factors these are musical factors as well. Some people wish to deny these musical factors to electronic music and thus by implication implication
deny its artistic validity. In fact the possibilities with Stockhausen's 193 sound mixtures are so limitless that the act of composing here is mainly a matter of highly selective choice where from this vast amount of sound materials the most logical and aesthetic continuity must be distilled. This I think Stockhausen has done very successfully in this piece. The alternation of all the four variants pitch duration intensity and texture is done with imagination and a sense of contrast. I remind you again however that you will not hear a contrast in sonority since as I have pointed out Stockhausen specifically limits the sonority scale to one type of sound mixture and this is not necessarily typical of electronic music. It is just one composer's choice in one particular experimental work. In its overall form the piece is also simple enough viewed in conventional
terms. It starts with sounds of relative length and intensity. Then through a series of variants of these achieves a more agitated surface and a more extended range. And then short structures appear their intensity curves are more jagged and more and more groups are superimposed on top of each other. At one point as many as seven from this greatest point of fragmentation and density the piece suddenly levels off again into longer more static sounds and eventually ends on a low note mixture which almost has the effect of a cadence and gives a definite feeling of finality to the piece. I could say much more about this work and especially about its structure but limit myself to the above merely to anticipate to some extent the notion held by so many that electronic music is just a formless jumble of mechanical
sounds you know is Stockhausen's electronic study. Number two.
Why. I. Oh.
Now you. Oh. Oh. Oh. When. That was the electronic study number two by Stockhausen
realised in the studios of the Cologne radio in Germany we turn now to one of the most important and most successful sonic experiments of the last decade and as days yeah and deserts work for 20 players and two magnetic tapes of electronically organized sounds funny Glee projected although not on the present monophonic recording of chorus. While it was not the first combo composition to combine live and electronic sounds it was the first large scale effort in this direction and it certainly was the most ambitious attempt of this kind up to that time. The juxtaposition of live and electronic sounds is invalid as this case in an utterly logical development and can be viewed simultaneously in two ways. On one level it provides a sonic and psychological contrast in the
structure of the work. And at the same time on another level it establishes a continuum between But as this type of instrumental writing and electronic sounds in other words in one fell swoop the work inherently guarantees both structural unity and diversity within that unity. Flores is instrumental writing on which I have previously held forth in connection with his earlier works. It is of course eminently suited to the kind of son Nora's duality proposed and is there because it has always been on the periphery of orthodox instrumental techniques. Always a kind of pretty electronic music. It's extreme involvement with abstraction and so to speak. Crystallization of sound materials the hypnotic static quality of his music the ostinato repetitions the illumination in many works of string instruments and their softer tambourine. All this can now be clearly seen
as a direct antecedent of electronic music. Although that may be a bit of an oversimplification there is certainly quite a bit of truth in that. In point of fact has felt unable to continue composing in the middle 30s because the music that he began to envision could no longer be produced solely on conventional musical instruments. In 1937 VI has stopped composing because he felt he could not go on without electronic means without compromising his aesthetics and artistic integrity. It might be noted here parents ethically that valve as was never one to think of composing as a kind of a career. And as one writer once put it Baez will never write a devoutly small. This is where then was his first composition after nearly 17 years of silence and study. And it was made possible by the emergence of the electronic medium in the early 50s. But as was now at the time of writing this they are 68 or 69 years old.
The Grand Old Man of the I want God one might say. And yet his work more than keeps up with the younger set. If that is of importance and he manages to still innovate a thing or two himself. There is certainly up to that time the fullest realization of as his long held concept of a special music a music free of all arbitrary restrictions. And to this day of ours has never availed himself of any of these specific techniques or formulas evolved by other leading composers in our century such as serial technique. He also pioneered in a concept of musical recurrence or musical reminiscence and idea later picked up by Stockhausen and other younger composers and an idea which is the sort of the 20th century replacement of 1000s an 18th century repetition. But is is and always was a composer who was able to free himself of the strictures of 900 century harmonic or for that matter polyphonic thinking radical
ideas which germinated in late Debussy and early Stravinsky and which were radically expanded and crystallized by evolve as already in the 20s. There is there continues along these lines and pushes these concepts still further. Rather than speak more about the work itself I would like to take the time to quote from Valdez himself on several aspects of his musical concepts fascinating quotations which are included in the new Columbia record on which the present performance appears in the first quarter patients speaks about form and rhythm and then goes on to elucidate as this concept of composing in a way that tells us more than any words of mine ever could. I call it rhythm and form are still the two elements most generally mis understood rhythm is too often confused with metrics. Cadence or the regular succession of beats and accents has really
little to do with the rhythm of a composition rhythm is the element in music that not only gives life to a work but that holds it together. It is the element of stability in my own work rhythm derives from the simultaneous interplay of unrelated elements that intervene and calculated but not regular time lapses. This corresponds more liely no more nearly to the definition of rhythm in physics and philosophy as a succession of alternate and opposite or correlatives States. And form the misunderstanding has come because we tend to think of form as a point of departure a pattern to be followed a mold to be filled. Form is the result of a process. Each of my works discovered its own form. I have never tried to fit my conceptions into a known container. If you take a rigid box of definite shape and call it a sonata box
and you want to fill it you must have something that is the same shape or that is elastic enough to be made to fit. But if you try to force into it something of a different shape and hardest substance even if its volume and size are the same it will break the box. Musical form considered as the result of a process suggests an analogy with the phenomenon of crystallization. The clearest answer I can give people ask me how I compose is to say by crystallisation in the description of crystal formation I find my analogy the crystal is characterized by a definite external form and a definite internal structure. The internal structure is based on the unit of crystal. The smallest grouping of the atoms having the order and composition of the substance. The extension of the unit into space forms the whole crystal in spite of the relatively limited variety of internal structures. The external forms of crystals
are almost limitless. I believe that this suggest better than any explanation I can give the way my works are formed. One has an idea of the bases of the internal structure. It is expanded and split into different shapes or groups of sounds that constantly change in shape direction and speed attracted and repulsed by various forces. The form is the consequence of this interaction possible musical forms are as limitless as the exterior forms of crystals. This is a long quote from Governor has. Another quotation a shorter one regards electronic music and I think this is particularly apt at this time. The electronic instrument is an additive not a destructive factor in the art and science of music. It is because new instruments have been added to the old ones that Western music has such a rich and varied patrimony electronic instruments do not mean
that old instruments will be abandoned just because there are other ways of getting there. You do not kill the horse. I think these statements should give an idea of the clarity and originality of A has his thoughts on music. Let us now hear the piece for magnetic magnetic tapes of both electronically produce sounds and music concrete sounds and instrumental ensemble. The performance is going to by Robert Craft who does rather better by vans than he does with almost any other composer.
The way it was. Thank. You. Will. So. Are. You.
A thing. Or.
Why. And.
Be. What. Be.
Why. Yeah.
That was days in now by Agyness a piece for an instrumental ensemble and two magnetic tapes. The performance was under the supervision of Robert Craft. And this is a new Columbia record released quite recently. My final work on this particular program takes us to the year in 1955. It is by a composer who is completely unknown in America so far totally on performed. Who is however a figure of some consequence and European of unguarded music. He is the Greek or Romanian composer. I don't know which Younis Xenakis I spelled X and A K I S. Born in one thousand twenty one who now makes his home in Paris he is somewhat better known in Europe primarily because the conductor how much has frequently performed works by GGs in August and because he is one of the more severe
critics of serial technique in Europe always a controversial subject. A severe critic by the way not from a standpoint of conservative reaction I hasten to had but because it is in visions of music still freer and still more advanced according to him than any of the techniques presently being employed whether serial or aleatory or a combination thereof. In this respect Xenakis is music is closest. If it is close to anybody to the music of other has. For example artist who has renounced the conventional linear polyphonic concepts of western music and like the other has envisions a freer spatial music but goes Valdes one further by creating what he calls a global music. Xenakis calls a global music global not in the geographic sense of course but in a geographic in a geometric conceptual sense. Global Music or another term as an artist has invented
for his musical concepts stochastic music from the Greek word stalk lastic us stochastic meaning conjectural in the sense of being related to mathematical theories of probability which form the foundation of Xanax as music. From this alone you can perhaps gather that his music is rather uniquely intellectually founded and is unlike any other being composed today and is certainly almost certainly unlike any other music you will have ever heard. The first work is an arc is composed in this new manner is an orchestral piece called metastasis. His titles are almost all Greek middest ass's comes from the word stays as dances they says in English and Mehta which I think in this case means change. In other words a work in which as I see it periods of status or even nobility undergo changes or variants. I'm somewhat of a handicap in talking about
Xenakis as music. As I say music is totally unknown and I know practically nobody was ever even heard of him. And I do not know the man. I've never read any specific statements by him about this particular piece. And there are no scores of his music in this country available as far as I know. The American representative of his publisher has one score on hand and that one is of another piece not metastases. I do know some of the nurses general theories and concepts that led him to compose this strange music and they are certainly very interesting ones and worth mentioning on this program. The knack is believed as far back as 1955 that this serial technique had already stagnated into academic formulas and that it represented no more than a slightly more advanced reorganization of what he termed fundamentally 19th century Western music concepts 20th century
once but 19th century ones namely that of a linear and polyphonic concept of musical continuity. To him serial technique is no more than a complex superimposition of the various strands of the 12 tone series and their versions. In his more radical view of things. Xenakis asks why must we be limited to the 12 temperate tones of Bach's piano. He also thinks that the intended polyphony opposed they were in music whether pointillist equally handled or not is self-defeating as polyphony by its very complexity. The linear continuity which forms the basis of the serial technique is not audible as such he says. There is therefore a basic discrepancy according to exactness between the avowed intentions and the results of this approach. And in listening to a work by No-No for example whatever else one may admire or question in the music one certainly cannot orally perceive its polyphonic
development so perhaps cannot as has a point here. As an artist says that as a result of such complexity polyphonic complexity all the year finally hears is a mass of more or less varied sounds. A total microcosm. Instead of linear polyphony one hears a mass surface he reasons that one should therefore abandon this sham polyphony and its academic trappings of rigid organization and free the music into a new global Totality where all spectra of all musical elements can function in a more emancipated and unincumbered way. Even the music of Valdez which as an artist admires very much for him and does not go far enough. It is also in a mass amount of conventional rhythms and tempers. Well the solution for Exeunt Arcus is this global sound. Totality which in actual fact in actual practice transit translates itself into a music in which the entire range of
sounds and pitches is activated. So to speak by the composer in certain specific manners and at certain specific speeds for temples these are of course of his choosing. All of this is calculated according to highly complicated mathematical theories of probability. I sat down first on graph paper and then translated into orchestral terms in practice this means that for long stretches of time as an artist splits his orchestra into many many individual single units of however many musicians he is writing for. There are no two T's. Everybody has an individual part. And is simply one tiny atom in this complex structure out of the many points of sound a total global mass of sound is thus achieved a sort of cloud of sounds which most of the time is internally moving while the outer edges the outlines of this shape remain the
same immobile and therefore status. Xenakis favorite device is to take all the violins of the orchestra for example and make each player play a series of exactly calculatedly sandals glissando is by the way being the most continuous moving sound to be achieved by instruments and therefore the antithesis and total obliteration of the tempered scale. This mass of 40 to 50 individual girls sandals whose range limits are clearly delimited by the composer is so calculated as to create in Siri a mass of sound which in its external shape does not move but which is internally in a state of motion. I say in theory because in practice this idea requires a perfection of balance between all forty or fifty instruments. That is very difficult but I would admit not impossible to achieve. Incidentally the siren like effect that you'll hear in this piece achieved by the Stranglers sandals are certainly not unrelated to valve as early
experiments with sirens in peace like I am a zation. Not all the clouds of sound that eggs in August creates of course have to move. Some are completely static where you simply hear a 15 note aggregate of pitches sustained by all the instruments. In this piece meant the stanzas which starts with one of these clouds of glissando zz. After developing various kinds of other Stacey's to refer back to the title a section for solo instruments follows which is very very British and fragmented. Now this is not stochastic Lee organized and is accounted for by the fact that this is an early this work which is not yet completely based on his own theories. After this point a listing interlude. Gradually the a mass movement of sounds begins again and we hear tremolos and wide web rattles introduced and all the instruments as
variants of the more or less static sound and then the orchestra is broken up into groups with each group employing a different and particular method of playing. As a kind of CODA we have a short pause and then from one of these extended global sound NASA's in full range and full intensity and full density Xenakis creates a kind of unwinding musical spiral Vio it's gradually all the elements are decreased until only one single note and a flat in the middle register remains. And on this single note the single note of course and this is of the total global sound mass of the piece and an a long dim.. Well without further ado here is mental status by the Greek Romanian composer Yanis Xenakis. And the performance is conducted by him on a session.
Steve the end. Ye ye who. Seek. To him in. The lust. And. The and. The
and. The and. The earth the earth the earth.
I am. Saying. I am young. I. Thank. Ye. I am. The airplane. Seat.
I am now. I am a. Man. Or am. I am. The air.
And that was meant as Tacitus by Younis Xenakis. In a performance conducted by how much session. I would not presume to have an absolute final reaction to a work so radical and novel in its precepts. I'm not that familiar with because I doubt this is music and I would wish to hear it much more and above all to study it much more which as I said before is not presently possible. For the moment I'm quite fascinated by it as a sun and a spectacle and have incidentally myself done similar things in my work. Spectra quite unaware of the fact that someone else was experimenting with these same extended sound masses. While I feel an affinity to certain aspects of Xenakis is music. I'm not sure that the limitations and stagnation he ascribes to serial technique are not an inherent danger in his own music and musical precepts. Certainly there are some rather severe limits to this to his approach because after a while all masses of
Contemporary Music in Evolution
Episode Number
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-v40jzb1g).
Other Description
Contemporary Music in Evolution is a radio program hosted by Gunther Schuller, which traces the evolution of Western classical music from 1899 to 1961. Each episode focuses on a specific year and chronicles some of the significant works, schools, and composers of the time. Schuller introduces several performance recordings in each episode, and gives commentary and analysis that also touch on previous episodes.
Recorded Music
Media type
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Host: Schuller, Gunther
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 64-36-24 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 01:04:40
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Contemporary Music in Evolution; 24; 1954,” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 23, 2021,
MLA: “Contemporary Music in Evolution; 24; 1954.” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 23, 2021. <>.
APA: Contemporary Music in Evolution; 24; 1954. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from