Listening log, Notes, Research & Reflection, Uncategorized

Zemlinsky 2nd string quartet final section in PDF with audio from Sibelius 7

Zemlinky adagio transition 43 to 137 on – Score and parts

For rehearsal and study purposes ready for a formal coaching session of our ‘MEGA’ string quartet, here are:

  • Score and parts (not individually edited)
  • Audio (WAV) file suitable for streaming playback, synthesised in Sibelius 7.5 with its standard instruments sample library

Covering performance mark 134 (Langsam) to the end, and indicating a suggested link into that for coaching purposes from two bars before figure 46.  Hence this omits the ‘Schnell’ 2/8 section

This work is out of copyright and this material can be freely used.  Please comment on the site if you see errors and I will try to amend them.  There are two questionable notes in the 1916 Universal Edition score where I have indicated my ‘edition’ with small question marks.




ASSIGNMENT 1, ASSIGNMENTS, Notes, Research & Reflection

Post-mortem/ reflections on Assignment 1

Here are my views on my Assignment 1 attempt, a day after closing and sending off the Sibelius file to OCA.   I took the invitation implied in earlier projects to choose a piece freely rather than following the much more narrow (updated?) instructions to continue an existing start of a work.  Mainly, I wanted to explore some ideas from the minimalist movement about phasing, and to write something that was loosely constrained by a natural process, the timing and amplitude of the tides.


The idea is so far as I know original.

I did, as suggested, pick an unconventional time signature.  25/16 seems to be a Bulgarian dance  rhythm ‘sedi donka’ as 7 + 7 +11.  My usual pattern of six crotchets plus a ‘skip’ semiquaver instead tries to set up the idea more clearly of phasing.  I believe, with the help of Sibelius, that I have notated this as clearly and practically as I can, for example showing the beats in the bar immediately before one of the periodic gong entries.

The overall shape of loud/excited and soft/contemplative followed quite strictly the design in my earlier blog:

The ending is exciting

The shifting of the claves ‘high tide’ against the triangle ‘lunar 25 hour day’ is audible and quite hypnotic in the quieter music.

The design, to bring the two back into sync on the last note, was technically followed through.

I experimented with a very wide range of cross-rhythms.

I believe the percussion parts would be technically playable, though conducting this would be tough.  The triangle semiquaver at the end of every bar does at least act as a flag or anchor for the players to know when to start the next bar.  Having two side drummers is a practical decision to reduce fatigue, and add interest since very often one imitates the other, though often at a different dynamic


For an unpitched percussion piece with no change in speed or time signature, or completely contrasting section of different instruments, this first serious attempt, at getting on for 10 minutes is too long to easily sustain attention if you are listening to it as a pure performance piece without also following the concept.  That’s a problem with a lot of twentieth century music though e.g. Boulez ‘Le Marteau sans Maitre’ or Stockhausen ‘Cosmic Pulses’, I think around 40 minutes each.  However Varese ‘Ionisation’ on 7 minutes is more interesting as  a pure untuned percussion piece, if you forgive the tuning of the sirens!  Oh and I think I hear the bongos playing a triad at one point….

There are too many bars in my piece with side drum semiquavers, at least when I have listened to this multiple times.  Perhaps with the anticipation of fresh listening they could be said to create suspense.  But really they reflect me running out of time.

Fundamentally this is over-ambitious for a first attempt.  However I now know more about what it takes to score something on this scale, and the need for more than one basic concept to create variety.


Useful learning experience.  I know more about some of the less classical untuned percussion; I particularly like the sound of temple blocks but used this in an earlier project so wanted to try out something different.  In fact I am still curious to hear again what this ‘Welcome to Ceredigion’ sounds like.  With a lot more time, I am sure I could improve the piece.  So an Opus zero then not an Opus 1 !

Looking forwards to being allowed to use PITCH and all the things that brings with intervals, harmony and melody.

Other notes

One influence in making so prominent a side drum part was perhaps the side drum solo ‘against the orchestra’ in the first movement of Neilsen’s fifth symphony.

Reich really pioneered ‘Phasing’ but when you analyse  a number of his works, the basic rhythm within which the phasing takes place is a regular one.  So for example in ‘Music for Pieces of Wood’, the only one I know apart from Clapping without tuned pitch, the repeating cell is either 6 beats, 4 or 3 beats right at at the end.  I had to see that rather than hear it, so my initial idea of hearing a 25 versus 24 cross-rhythm is clearly just too demanding on the aural short term memory.  The following nice visualisation of Reich’s own phasing for claves (at different pitches) makes clear to the eye, and then to the ear what is going on.  I will think about that joint appreciation through both eyes and ears for some future work e.g. using stereo or even binaural synthesis.

A footnote on the ‘gong ageng’: this is the largest of the Javanese gamelan instruments and traditionally used to start and end a sequence

If not available, I imagine a tam tam would substitute, but its resonance may continue for rather long unless stopped, which can seem abrupt.

ASSIGNMENT 1, Listening log, Research & Reflection

Steve Reich Drumming – based on psychological illusions?

Strange experience today – had Steve Reich’s long, hypnotising ‘Drumming’ playing in a room that I was dipping in and out of.  While in the room, I could rarely hear the shifting rhythms but every time I came back in after a short absence I heard a different main beat.  Is that just because the music moves slowly, or am I locking into a particular pulse as you do when looking at a view of a Necker cube?  But for other optical illusions the retina at a low level becomes desensitised, ‘tired’ of a particular location or colour which is why you see read afterimages after looking at a green spot.  Can this also happen in acoustics and music, I wonder?

Exhibitions & Books, Notes, Part 1

Too much time in the kitchen (department)

“Rimsky-Korsakov said with truth that love of percussion is the besetting sin of the budding orchestrator … with regard to the percussion instruments of indefinite pitch, one should be extremely sparing in their use”  

from Orchestral Technique A manual for students, Gordon Jacob, 3rd edition 1982 OUP (reprinted 2004, paperback), p69

“It has been said with much wisdom that the effect of the cymbal clash is in inverse proportion to its frequency”… “… for sheer genius in economy one of the most famous triangle solos in the repertoire is Richard Strauss’s favourite: the single stroke in the entire second act of Siegfried, occurring near the very end”  

from Anatomy of the Orchestra, Norman Del Mar, Faber and Faber (2009)ISBN 978-0-571-25099-8 pp 390, 392

Listening log, Research & Reflection

Why is Cesar Franck so unpopular?

Just listened again to his Symphony in D minor in  a good performance, on the slow and precise side

César Franck: Symphony in D minor

University of Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Marc Soustrot

Sometimes reminds me of Bruckner, but less portentious.  The chromatic harmony often in contrary motion resolves in a much more classical way than the everlasting sevenths and ninths of Wagner.  He also likes canon or at least imitation at close distances, as in the violin/piano sonata last movement.  Looked up also the score and a recording of his string quartet but, though it was popular at the time, the part-writing seems pretty primitive.