To you, Boulez's 6th notation may sound like a slurry of notes. To me, it actually kind of does. Despite the fact that the left hand is playing exactly what the right hand does, just two notes displaced (and from the middle, playing a mirrored version), it still sounds like chaos. How is that something written down on paper has so much order, but sounds absolutely nothing like order?
While we ponder this question, it's good to have some images in mind. When I was practicing this, it felt like v
‘Doux, improvisé’ is the heading of the 5th Notation. Sweet and improvisatory. How do you play something that is written down precisely in a way that is improvisatory? The sweetness of this movement comes from the note suspended in time. There are two phrases, both beginning with a upward cascade of notes until only a lone melody floats on it. The melody goes up and then down and is interrupted by a sudden note. Our sound bubble has been popped.
Knock knock. The 4th Notation is almost a knock knock joke. The opening motif is kind of a knock knock theme. How many times do you hear it in the entire piece? Each time it appears, it is met by an ever changing, somewhat erratic reply. Listen to how it changes every time the theme appears. This interplay between static and erratic, constant and changing, is the core of this movement.
We could start by asking the question, what are we actually hearing? This question is more relevant than you think. Boulez draws inspiration from many sources. He admits to being influenced by Ravel, Stravinsky and Bartok for this set of piano pieces.
Listen to this music and think about what it reminds you about. For some reason, when ever I hear this, my mind subconsciously adds a layer of swinging jazz rides and brushed snare to the music. What does it make you feel?
I know it sounds dogmatic, especially coming from a person like me, yet I've come to believe this more and more now.
I came to Germany with no expectations. Actually, I came here because I found no place back home where I could study. Almost like a last ditch effort, I rationalized that Germany is the place to be to study Western Classical Music, I hopped on that plane and never regretted that decision.
I'd like to invite you to open your ears for not more than 6o seconds. Why? Because some of the most fascinating works of our time can fit in the amount of time it takes for you to check the weather. Let me show you some of these pieces.
I've created a series on Instagram called #contemporarymusicin6oseconds. Just search the hashtag and you will find it. In this series, I post weekly videos of works that are no longer than a minute. You could call them minute works.