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By Michael Hicks

In this primary interpretive narrative of the lifestyles and paintings of Christian Wolff, Michael Hicks and Christian Asplund hint the affects and sensibilities of a modern composer's extraordinary occupation course and stressed mind's eye. Written in complete cooperation with Wolff, together with entry to his papers, this quantity is a much-needed advent to a number one avant-garde composer nonetheless dwelling, writing song, and talking approximately his personal work.
Wolff has pioneered quite a few compositional and notational idioms, together with openly political song, indeterminacy, photo ratings, and severe virtuosity. educated as a classicist instead of a musician, Wolff hasn't ever fairly had either toes within the rarefied international of latest composition. but he is thought of a "composer's composer," with a brain ensconced both in historical Greek tragedy and experimental song and an eccentric and impulsive compositional method that eludes a hard and fast stylistic fingerprint.
Hicks and Asplund disguise Wolff's relations existence and adolescence, his function as a founding father of the recent York tuition of composers, and the context of his lifestyles and paintings as a part of the loo Cage circle, in addition to his departures from it. seriously assessing Wolff's position in the experimental musical box, this quantity captures either his eloquence and discretion and gives insights into his vast pursuits and actions inside track and beyond.

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In the Duet I (December 1960) for piano 4 hands, his first work to use this notation, two pages of score accompany three pages of explanation. As in For Pianist, Wolff uses lettered pitch gamuts from which the performer must choose, specifies various inside-the-piano techniques, and governs the progress of the piece by cues. The two pages of the score should be played in order—or only one of the two pages may be played. Many pitches are given with a threefold range of durations: filled notehead = shortest to medium square open notehead = medium to very long ovular open notehead = any duration Meanwhile, the eight different coordination neumes include symbols for attack as simultaneously as possible, but player 2 holds longer than 1 1 starts anytime, 2 plays as soon as possible after 1 releases 2 plays first, then 1 and both release together and so forth.

45 c h r i s t i a n w o l f f | Let Playing Be Composition and Composition Playing 46 Wolff explained this in a 1970 article that echoed both Cardew’s “ethics” and Cage’s embrace of all sounds. A composition (a score) is only material for performance: it must make possible the freedom and dignity of the performers; it should allow at any moment surprise, for all concerned, players, composer, listeners; it should allow both concentration, precision in detail, and release, or collapse, virtuosity and doing things in the ordinary way.

On the other hand, one simply could not prepare for as many possibilities as one might encounter or rehearse any one of them as many times as one would need to accommodate any contingency. The tension that ensues seemed unnerving—or perhaps nerving in the sense that each player in the Duo II had to be fully present in the moment of performance. One could not “lose oneself” in the piece but only stay alert for the piece’s constant mutations. 17 But he felt it accomplished a higher intellectual aim than sonic pleasure or mental play.

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