James’ Choice: Antonio de Almeida’s score of Iannis Xenakis’ Metastasis

a photograph of Antonio de Almeida's copy of Xenakis' Metastasis

Antonio de Almeida’s markings on Xenakis’ Metastasis

This month the library item I’ve decided to highlight is the score for Iannis Xenakis’ (1922-2001) Metastasis from the printed music collection of the conductor Antonio de Almeida (1928-1997), complete with his performance markings. There are a number of reasons for my choice. As well as being a landmark piece of twentieth-century modernism, it’s a visually-striking score on account of its size and intricacy. Moreover, Antonio de Almeida’s pencil markings are a fascinating insight into the practical considerations required for performing a piece like this. It’s also an excellent example of Xenakis’ unique approach to composition, and one with a very explicit connection to his work as an architect.

score

Written in 1953-4, and premiered at the Donaueschingen Festival in 1955, Metastasis is Xenakis’ first major work after the completion of his studies with Olivier Messiaen. In this piece, Xenakis lays down the foundation for many of the approaches and attitudes to music composition that were to occupy him for the rest of his career. The work combines an idiosyncratic system for controlling pitch material and an approach to sound best described when he says ‘the sonorities of the orchestra are building materials, like brick, stone and wood […] The subtle structures of orchestral sound masses represent a reality that promises much’.[1] In this piece, each orchestral player has a separate part, and Xenakis combines, on the one hand, the continuous evolution of enormous glissando structures and, on the other, the discontinuous permutation of pitches.

 ‘I was interested in two things in those years. One: I wanted to write a kind of dodecaphonic music with the help of computation – a music whose macroform emerges from a few basic principles. In Metastasis I made computations based on the permutations of intervals, with the help of the axiomatic approach known in mathematics.

Two: I was interested in the continuous changes of chords. […] How to make that change a continuous one? So long as one remains in the same scale, the only solution is a glissando. […] That was the basic idea.’[2]

 

Metastasis is also the first work in which Xenakis’ compositional planning for the piece involved using a two-dimensional projection. Here, time is on the x-axis and pitch on the y-axis, and ruled straight-line paths are bent into curved surfaces.

Composition sketch for Xenakis metastasis showing the basis for the hyperbolic paraboloids of the Philips Pavillion

Image scanned from Bálint András Varga, Conversations with Iannis Xenakis, (London: Faber and Faber, 1996), 74

Xenakis also employed this technique in later compositions (such as Stratégie and Syrmos), but it’s particularly fascinating how it was also translated directly into his work as an architect. The connection is immediately obvious with how these curves built from multiple straight-line paths (hyperbolic paraboloids) were incorporated into the distinctive shape of his design for the Philips Pavilion for the 1958 Brussels Exposition Universelle, built during his time working in the office of Le Corbusier. Incidentally, the pavillion had another connection to musical modernism in that it formed the setting for performances of Edgard Varèse’s Poème électronique.[3]

expo again

Image by Wouter Hagens, accessed from http://www.archdaily.com/157658/ad-classics-expo-58-philips-pavilion-le-corbusier-and-iannis-xenakis, licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

The score on display was plucked from the personal printed music library of Antonio de Almeida, housed in the Jerwood Library’s special collections. Consisting of 5,456 volumes, including scores acquired by him from the collections of Charles Munch and Pierre Monteux, it’s a wide-ranging collection, reflecting his own diverse musical interests. Alongside the Xenakis score, the collection ranges from other leading lights of twentieth-century modernism, via more mainstream orchestral repertoire of the 19th and 18th century, to composers such as Carlos Chavez, André Grétry, Howard Hanson, Hans Pfitzner and Henri Serpette. Not to mention works by Offenbach and Boccherini, in whom de Almeida had a particular interest. Described by Grove as ‘a conductor of elegance and fastidious detail’, he was also awarded the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and the Légion d’Honneur.[4]

 


 

[1] Iannis Xenakis quoted in Peter Hoffmann, ‘Xenakis, Iannis’ in Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online <http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/30654&gt; (Accessed August 25th, 2016)

[2] Iannis Xenakis quoted in Bálint András Varga, Conversations with Iannis Xenakis, (London: Faber and Faber, 1996), 72.

[3] Peter Hoffmann, ‘Xenakis, Iannis’ in Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online <http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/30654&gt; (Accessed August 25th, 2016)

[4] Noël Goodwin, ‘Almeida, Antonio (Jacques) de’ in Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online <http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/00643&gt; (Accessed August 23rd, 2016)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wind, Brass and Percussion Music in Special Collections

Today we have a post aimed at encouraging wind, brass and percussion players to make more of our special collections. Whilst it’s true that much of the collections comprise voice and string-based repertoire, this is by no means exclusively the case. So, here are some choice picks to help you explore further (NB non-WBP players may also find something of interest here!).

Printed music

The Bridge Memorial Library (the historic library of the former Trinity College of Music) is full of rare and unusual printed music from the classical and romantic periods.

Reissiger

Carl Reissiger’s Vier Gesänge for soprano, horn and piano 780.3 REI

Of relevance here, there are several out-of-print works of chamber music involving wind or brass instruments. For instance, we have a set of quartets by C. F. Baumgarten for oboe and strings – we featured them a few years ago in this blog post here. Then there is Henri Brod’s Cinquième Fantaisie for piano, oboe and bassoon. Or how about Reissiger’s Vier Gesänge for soprano, horn and piano.

bound volume

Nineteenth-century volume of clarinet trios including Heinrich Lannoy, Grosses Trio für Pianoforte, Clarinett und Violoncello 782.7029 LAN

Clarinettists may want to delve into this volume of trios, originally for various different instrument combinations but bound together clearly with the intention of being played by a clarinet trio. It even includes some manuscript arrangements for the clarinet part – a great insight into nineteenth-century performance practice.

We also hold first or early editions of better-known works, useful for comparing with performance directions in later editions. For instance, see this 1820s edition of Spohr’s Octet.

Manuscript music

As well as rare printed music we also hold many unique manuscript scores of works written for wind, brass or percussion instruments.

Several of these can be found in our Carey Blyton collection which came to us in 2006. Blyton was a former TL student and professor, and a prolific composer. Relevant items include a brass quintet, woodwind trio and song cycle for voice, clarinet, horn and piano.

Another manuscript by one of our former composition professors is Arnold Cooke’s autograph score of Divertimento for flute, oboe, violin, cello and piano (or harpsichord). Cooke taught at the conservatoire between 1947 and 1978.

Lastly, so as not to neglect our percussionists, there are the three autograph manuscript scores by Simon Bainbridge, David Bedford, and John Woolrich which together comprise Songs, Sketches and Tall Stories, a work for narrator, clarinet, piano and percussion. This was composed for a schools music theatre project at Blackheath Concert Halls (now owned by Trinity Laban) in March 1989.

Accessing the collections

If you’d like to discover more, all our special collections are described here on our website. And many collections are catalogued at item level on our catalogue.

When you’ve found something you’d like to see, please contact us to make an appointment so we can have the material ready for you. Our special collections are available to all researchers, whether members of Trinity Laban or not. Please note that copies can only be made in compliance with copyright law – we can advise on specific items.

New Exhibition: Facsimile Scores in the Jerwood Library

Brand new for the start of the autumn term is our latest exhibition Facsimile Scores in the Jerwood Library, running from 10 September until 11 December. This display has been curated by library assistant James Luff, and is based on his popular blog post ‘The delights of handwritten scores‘.

The exhibition showcases facsimiles of manuscript scores held by the Jerwood Library. One cabinet displays a selection of beautiful and distinctive handwritten scores from twentieth-century composers, showing a range of particularly striking and individual approaches to the calligraphy of more-or-less conventionally notated music. The other cabinet highlights the writing styles and working methods of many of the old masters.

When not working in the library, James composes music himself so brings an insider’s perpective to the subject of composers’ manuscript scores. You will be able to read more about James when he appears later this month in our Who’s Who series.

The exhibition space is located just inside the Jerwood Library, opposite the issue desk. For any visitors who may wish to view the exhibition, please contact us in advance to arrange access. Everyone is welcome!

Library item of the month, Sep 2015: ‘Somebody loves me’

The Item of the month for September 2015 is George Gershwin’s Somebody loves me (words by Ballard MacDonald and Buddy DeSylva).

Between 1920 and 1924, Gershwin wrote music for five of George White’s Broadway reviews including George White’s Scandals of 1924 which contained the hit number Somebody loves me. According to Ean Wood, in his biography George Gershwin: His life and music [shelved at 789 GER], this song is the first to show the ‘authentic’ Gershwin sound. However, the composer had already had a hit with Swanee, recorded in 1920 by Al Jolson which made the composer $10,000 in royalties, closely followed by success with Rhapsody in blue in 1924. Premièred in a concert entitled ‘An Experiment in Modern Music’, Rhapsody established Gershwin’s place in the history of music as ‘the man who brought ‘jazz’ into the concert hall’ [Grove online].

Photo of the Gershwin item of the month displayThis month’s display includes only a small selection of scores and recordings featuring Gershwin’s song, Somebody loves me.

Dick Hyman’s Professional chord changes and substitutions for 100 tunes every musician should know [shelved at: 780.28 HAY] offers chords choices to compare with those shown in the other displayed score, The Real book (European : 6th edition) [shelved at J 781.REA] – clearly, there is always more than one harmonic solution to be found!

Somebody loves me has been an inspiration for many singers and composers since its composition and we have included the score of Earl Wild’s Etude, no. 2 for piano [shelved at 781.4 WIL], as an example of a work inspired by the song.

A CD with CD shelves reflected in itBesides scores, we have chosen a handful of recordings by a variety of artists – Bud Powell, Tommy Dorsey, Zoot Sims, Lester Young, Art Tatum, Johnny Dankworth and Dinah Washington – plus Ferde Grofé’s Whiteman Orchestra arrangements and original Gershwin orchestrations (Gershwin by Grofé… [shelved at JAZZ : GER].  For staff and students at Trinity Laban, there are, of course, many other recordings of this song available online via our music streaming subscriptions. These can be found using the Quicksearch link in the ‘Library Links’ menu on Moodle.

Digital scores and more from new Alexander Street Press subscriptions

We’re delighted to announce a significant expansion to our online subscriptions with the acquisition of the Alexander Street Press Music Online: Premium collection. This gives us our first collection of digital scores and greatly increases our streaming video collection.

Screenshot of Alexander Street Press showing a digital score.

What’s included?

On top of our existing audio and video subscriptions with Alexander Street Press which include Classical Music Library, Jazz Music Library and Opera in Video, we now have access to a number of extra resources:

  • Classical Scores Library volumes I & II (over 25000 digital scores including contemporary works)
  • Classical Music in Video (1500 performances, masterclasses etc) & Dance in Video (760 works)
  • Reference sources including Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, Classical Music Reference Library (including Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians), and African American Music Reference.
    [These reference sources are currently accessible via music.alexanderstreet.com onsite; see the library catalogue for offsite links. In future these will move to the same interface as the other Alexander Street Press resources]

How do I access it?

  • Find onsite and offsite links to Alexander Street Press and the individual collections on the ‘Other Online Resources’ page of the Jerwood Library catalogue. From home, log in with your IT username and password.
  • We recommend using Internet Explorer or Google Chrome – Firefox currently has a few visual glitches.
  • It should soon be possible to search and access these scores and recordings via QuickSearch.
  • The search interface is geared towards music and lets you filter results by type of resource, composer, genre, publisher etc. Contact the library if you’d like any help.

Can I print the digital scores, and what can I do with them?

Good news! You can print whole scores or a page range (select A4 not letter size paper).

The licence for this collection allows you to use the scores for anything educational as long as the public is not given access, e.g.

  • Printing copies of whole scores or extracts for study or to distribute to students in class.
  • Printing a score to provide an examiner/competition judge with a second copy for a performance exam.
  • Printing a copy to play from (but not with public access i.e. not in any masterclasses or performance exams where visitors could be in the audience).
  • Linking to scores in Moodle. You can link to start at a specific section/page, or even make a ‘playlist’ combining clips from recordings and scores from the site and link to that.
  • Projecting scores in class.

They cannot be distributed to anyone outside Trinity Laban for any purpose.