Elegy 81/05

During the first years of the AIDS pandemic, the US government did virtually nothing to assuage the suffering of thousands of LGBT people, especially those of color, who were dying. Many politicians appeared to find joy in the suffering of people who they clearly considered undesirable. These politicians have since received grand state funerals attended by mourners from around the world. The bodies of many victims of AIDS were never claimed. This nocturne is for them.

Six Atmospheric Pieces (2017)

I’ve always found something compelling in the work of Morton Feldman, especially the early indeterminate works and his later works of extreme length. These works invite the performer to create soundscapes both alien and familiar, and challenge the listener to process these musical universes. Six Atmospheric Pieces is my first attempt at such a composition.

Much of this cycle is written in unordered, arrhythmic sets of pitches which the performer is instructed to repeat ad libitum over a constantly-depressed sustain pedal. No. 1 only uses four pitch classes, with new pitch classes are added in Nos. 2 and 3 to complete a whole tone scale. No. 4 changes the material to an incomplete octatonic scale, with No. 5 then taking away two pitch classes, and No. 6 finishing quietly with the complete octatonic scale. The effect is extremely subtle, but gives each piece its own internal unity and the cycle a sense of progression.

This cycle, like the works of Feldman that inspired it, demands as much, if not more, from the audience than it does from the performer’s technical ability: the slow, tuneless progression of the same arrhythmic pitches is an invitation for the audience to listen and contemplate. On the other hand, the indeterminate and improvisatory nature of the music requires the performer to know how they want each piece to progress and how long they want each piece to last, lest they sit down for a performance and thoughtlessly pick out the notes on the keyboard.

© 2019 by Alec J Radecki.

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