The Writhing Center of Sound
Phil Avetxori | 08/21/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The first time I heard of Giancinto Scelsi, he was mentioned as as being famous for writing pieces that used only one note. As a novice to avant/experimental music, I was eagerly gorging myself with busy music packed with event, revelling in abrupt juxtaposition and unlikely hybrids. There was no room on my plate for the ascetic and the single-minded, so checking out Scelsi was low on my list of musical priorities. Now that my ears have been tuned to distinguish fine subtleties in sound, these pulsating singularities seem far from spartan. The key to appreciating this music is to listen to the inside of the sound. There's no forward motion or thematic development to be had here. Scelsi's music travels without moving. It's Leibnizian, in a way, a monad drawn within itself, projecting the sonic pseudopods of its internal logic as the entirety of its reality. Although, with the exception of the first quartet, all of these compositions are indeed comprised of a single note, Scelsi discovers an amazing amount of flexibility within this most restrictive of musical parameters. Now, I'm no expert on tunings, but this is the most subtle, and ultimately most affecting use of microtonality I've ever heard. In the allegreto movement of the 3rd quartet, in particular, the subtle throb from a rich, tempered note to the alien drone of a skewed tonality is breathtaking.It simultaneously evokes the centered calm of meditation, and the sublime expanse of a desert landscape. The 4th quartet, written a year later, both concentrates the piece into a more tightly packed form, and refines the microtonal and timbral subtleties. The further restrictions on development-in-time are compensated for with a wealth of new textures and overtones. Over twenty years later, Scelsi's 5th quartet (his final compositon) weaves the tiny internal vacillations into a surging mesh. The composer's personal soundworld has been thoroughly mastered, allowing him greater freedom to subtly vary the internal form of the variegated sound tissue."
Clear luminous excitative playing
scarecrow | Chicago, Illinois United States | 07/25/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Arditti have been living, re-living scouring fashioning the Scelsi string oeuvre for a few decades now, and it is some spectres of performative clarity and luminosity the capture,single isolated timbres always remain distinguisable here residing within each plyers sensibility, vertigious,colloquial approaches to one part,one contrapuntal offerings, Unity however as Theodor Weisengrund said someplace is where we find the truth moments in music,especially ones proclaiming the paradigm of modernity as Scelsi does so admirably. Tenebrous thoughts, string exultations disparate auguries of timbre, all compacted, all within classical shapes and gestures,for Scelsi's almost lifelong affinities with world cultures, the East his music never senses the sets of durational problematics that that world of endless infinite gesure implies.His music remains unaligned with these dimensions of that world, and yet it is all suggested here in his encapsulations,his timbral focuses around single tones,timbres,and gestural miniatures. Pure unadulterated shapes we find here in the latter Quartets,Three, Four and Five,The First Quartet I found overlylabored,timid and predictable, but then leave that aside as a stepping stone the sacrificial particle to creativity of larger dimensions.
de Sarem's cello is amazing here as well, DEAD tones, dull, unobtrusive, yet with a presence, like starring into the bleak face of the woman in the rocking chair in Beckett's ROCKABY.
Fits and states of tremoli as well, Arditti not afraid of entering the undiscovered worlds,leaving traditions aside. Emerson and Kronos can learn from this Arditti noise production machine, clean transparent, committed,lucent,tonsured, like pigeon gurgles, or mosquitoes buzzing around the quit limb of a tree.Arditti knows the arborescent pathways of the string rectitude,sibilant amphoras, trestles, caedmons of expressive language.The Trio as well one gets the mpas the microscope to explore this occulted domain of the single tone, gentle, evocative yet virulent,inimical,barren frangpiani,palaquins of timbres.Khoom with a lady's voice was too predictable, I prefer the solo unaccompanied works he had written for Soprano, Alto Tenor and Bass,all again specters hovering around single tones, allamanda around simple three metres. But the instrumental accopaniment did provide raw ochres, patches of interesting timbre.The Fifth Quartet is also pulsed beginning with clustered world, glissandi, not misplaced at all, more clocktime is felt the power of the Chronos durational frame to allow impacted tones to speak,like lissome plunges of branches forward downward."
The Interior of Sound
L. Benjamin | Savannah, GA | 01/31/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Several years ago, I conceived of an exaggeration of minimalism, paring down the inessential until one arrived at a composition consisting of a single note. Unbenknownst to me at the time, Giacinto Scelsi had already explored the potential of this approach, achieving interest and "development" through microtones, octaves, and other methods.
Deceptively simple in description, the wrong execution can result in monotony. This is apparent in a recording I have of the "Quattro Pezzi per Orchestra" by the Ensemble Integration Saarbrücken on CPO. The pieces go nowhere, and the slight variations in tone serve only to call attention to what is missing - namely, tempo, and, unfortunately, other notes.
None of that is in evidence on this recording by the Arditti Quartet. I cannot explain how tension is built and released, nor how monotony is avoided - but these performances are successful while the aforementioned ones are not. The five quartets, despite having been written over a period spanning 40 years, were described by Alex Ross in a New Yorker article as a unified composition. Perhaps the Arditti players approached them in that way, thereby achieving a level of integration impossible if the pieces are performed as unique, disconnected works.
This is an altogether remarkable recording, and the liner notes, especially the essay by Harry Halbreich, are on a level rarely seen in the typical CD."