‘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?
Viewer discretion advised: contains gore (not really).
Boulez's second notation fits snuggly in 20 seconds. But within this 20 seconds are 4 glissandi and a hand crossing dance of rhythms. Can you tell if all the glissandi went in the same direction or in different directions?
To any pianist attempting this any time soon, keep your skin moisturized and lubricate them for the slides!
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.
I'm excited to announce that another semester of work is now bearing fruit. Three of my works, along with others by my colleagues, will be performed next Wednesday (16th May) in the Musikakademie Kassel. The entrance is free.