Stop, I'm Feeling Cyclical
Musical cycles as the building blocks of large-scale structure
Monday, April 16, 2012
One thing that became clear during last week's Bach-inspired program of passacaglias, chaconnes and variations is that almost all cogent musical structures have some kind of repetition or cycle. But of what? This week on Hammered! we decode the musical cycles behind some of the century's most fascinating architectural blueprints.
Tune in weekdays at 10 am for music that to varying degrees of obviousness uses musical cycles to form larger structural arches. We'll cover everything from harmonic progressions to melodic fragments, chord sequences to rhythmic repetitions, even cycles born from the musical structure itself, all manifest in some of the century's most innovative and invigorating keyboard music.
Check out Monday for instance. Fitting that we begin with a piece explicitly called a cycle (Nico Muhly's A Hudson Cycle) before moving onto the middle movement of John Adams' meticulously constructed Phrygian Gates (subtitled "A System Of Weights And Measures") and Jacob Cooper's Clifton Gates, which, the composer explains, is loosely based on some of the rhythmic patterns used in Adams' work.
From there we move to Johann Sebastian Bach, one of history's great musical architects, and survey five canons from the Goldberg Variations, a remarkable work that on nearly every conceivable level of magnitude contains a type of repeating, cycling motive. The canons, for instance, occur every third variation, progress systematically through each interval level, are themselves variations on a cycling ground bass, etc., ad infinitum. Speaking of infinite, music of Olivier Messiaen (movements from the Vingt Regard) and his student Gerard Grisey (selections from Vortex Temporum) close Monday's show. Here, in striking moments of similarity, huge blocks of material are cycled and amplified to form an ever-expanding musical form.
It's going to be a unique and unpredictable week packed with extraordinary music. Repertoire updates forthcoming!