Claude Debussy

Claude Debussy.

Claude Debussy.

Claude Debussy (August 22, 1862 – March 25, 1918), composer of impressionistic classical music.

Born in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Yvelines, France, Claude Debussy studied with Guiraud and others at the Paris Conservatoire (1872-84) and as an 1884 Prix de Rome winner, went to Rome, Italy (1885-7), though more important impressions came from his visits to Bayreuth (1888, 1889) and from hearing Javanese music in Paris (1889).

Wagner’s influence is evident in the cantata La damoiselle élue (1888) and the Cinq poèmes de Baudelaire (1889) but other songs of the period, notably the settings of Verlaine (Ariettes oubliées, Trois mélodies, Fêtes galantes, set 1) are in a more capricious style, as are parts of the still somewhat Franckian g Minor String Quartet (1893); in that work he used not only the Phrygian mode but also less standard modes, notably the whole-tone mode, to create the floating harmony he discovered through the work of contemporary writers: Mallarmé in the orchestral Prélude à ‘L’après-midi d’un faune’ (1894) and Maeterlinck in the opera Pelléas et Mélisande, dating in large part from 1893-5 but not completed until 1902. These works also brought forward a fluidity of rhythm and color quite new to Western music.

Pelléas, with its rule of understatement and deceptively simple declamation, also brought an entirely new tone to opera – but an unrepeatable one. Debussy worked on other opera projects and left substantial sketches for two pieces after tales by Edgar Allan Poe (Le diable dans le beffroi and La chute de la maison Usher), but neither was completed. Instead, the main works were orchestral pieces, piano sets, and songs.

The orchestral works include the three Nocturnes (1899), characteristic studies of veiled harmony and texture (‘Nuages’), exuberant cross-cutting (‘Fêtes’) and seductive whole-tone drift (‘Sirènes’). La mer (1905) essays a more symphonic form, with a finale that works themes from the first movement, though the centerpiece (‘Jeux de vagues’) proceeds much less directly and with more variety of color. The three Images (1912) are more loosely linked, and the biggest, ‘Ibéria’, is itself a triptych, a medley of Spanish allusions. Finally, the ballet Jeux (1913) contains some of Debussy’s strangest harmony and texture in a form that moves freely over its own field of motivic connection. Other late stage works, including the ballets Khamma (1912) and La boîte à joujoux (1913) and the mystery play Le martyre de St. Sébastien (1911), were not completely orchestrated by Debussy, though St. Sébastien is remarkable in sustaining an antique modal atmosphere that otherwise was touched only in relatively short piano pieces (e.g.’La cathédrale engloutie’).

The important piano music begins with works which, Verlaine fashion, look back at rococo decorousness with a modern cynicism and puzzlement (Suite bergamasque, 1890; Pour le piano, 1901). But then, as in the orchestral pieces, Debussy began to associate his music with visual impressions of the East, Spain, landscapes etc, in a sequence of sets of short pieces. His last volume of Etudes (1915) interprets similar varieties of style and texture purely as pianistic exercises and includes pieces that develop irregular form to an extreme as well as others influenced by the young Stravinsky (a presence too in the suite En blanc et noir for two pianos, 1915). The rarefaction of these works is a feature of the last set of songs, the Trois poèmes de Mallarmé (1913), and of the Sonata for flute, viola and harp (1915), though the sonata and its companions also recapture the inquisitive Verlainian classicism. The planned set of six sonatas was cut short by the composer’s death in 1918 from rectal cancer.

Claude Debussy died in Paris on March 25, 1918 and was interred there in the Cimetière de Passy.

[This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article: Claude Debussy.]

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Suzanne Valadon

Portrait of Suzanne Valadon

Suzanne Valadon.

Suzanne Valadon (September 23, 1865 – April 7, 1938) was a French painter.

Born Marie-Clémentine Valadon at Bessines-sur-Gartempe, Haute-Vienne, France the daughter of an unmarried laundress, Suzanne Valadon became a circus acrobat at the age of 15 until a fall ended her career. In the Montmartre Quarter of Paris she pursued her interest in art.

A strikingly beautiful girl, she found work as an artists’ model and used the opportunity to observe and learn the artists’ techniques. She modeled for such greats as Edgar Degas, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, all of whom would have an affair with her. She haunted the sleazy bars of Paris with the men and in 1889 Toulouse-Lautrec would paint a famous portrait of her titled: “The Hangover.”

Degas was very impressed with her bold line drawings and fine paintings and encouraged her efforts. Eventually, she became such a good painter that, unlike many artists, she received acclaim and some financial success during her lifetime. Despite her achievements, she would nevertheless wind up living in the shadows of her artist son born in 1883 out of wedlock by a father whose identity she would never divulge. Named Maurice Valadon at birth, later on her son would take the family name of a close friend and as Maurice Utrillo, he would become one of Montmartre’s most famous artists.

Suzanne Valadon painted still-lifes, floral art, and landscapes that were noted for their strong composition and vibrant colors. She was, however, best known for her female nudes. Her first exhibitions in the early 1890s consisted mainly of portraits, among them one of Erik Satie with whom she began an affair in 1893. A smitten Satie proposed marriage after their first intimate night. For Satie, she would be the only intimate relationship of his life, leaving him, he said, with “nothing but an icy loneliness that fills the head with emptiness and the heart with sadness.” In 1894 she became the first woman to be admitted to the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. A perfectionist, Suzanne Valadon worked for thirteen years on her oil paintings before ever showing them.

"The Hangover", portrait of Suzanne Valadon by Toulouse-Lautrec

“The Hangover”, portrait of Suzanne Valadon by Toulouse-Lautrec

A free spirit, she was known to wear a corsage of carrots, keep a goat in her studio to “eat up her bad drawings,” and to feed caviar to her “good Catholic” cats on Fridays.

In 1896 her marriage to a stockbroker failed when, in 1909, the then 44-year old Suzanne left him for the 23-year-old painter, André Utter. She married Utter in 1914, but this marriage too did not last.

Suzanne Valadon died on April 7, 1938 and was interred in the Cimetière de Saint-Ouen in Paris. Amongst those in attendance were her artist friends Andre Derain, Pablo Picasso, and Georges Braque.

Today, some of her works can be seen at the Centre Georges Pompidou, in Paris and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City.

In 1998, a book by author June Rose titled: “Suzanne Valadon – Mistress of Montmartre” was published and another book by Elaine Todd Koren was published in 2001 titled: “Suzanne: of Love and Art.”

[This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article: Suzanne Valadon.]

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Theremin Lecture/Demonstration by Scott Marshall

Scott Marshall will discuss the origins of the Theremin, and demonstrate its performance.

The IEEE History Center Lecture Series
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
in conjunction with
Mason Gross School of the Arts Music Department
presents
“A Lecture/Demonstration of the Theremin”
by
Scott Marshall

In this lecture, Scott Marshall will discuss the origins of the Theremin, and demonstrate its performance.

The Theremin is an instrument which produces musical sound exclusively by electrical means. It is the only musical instrument ever conceived that is played by waving the hands in the air.

Perhaps the most intriguing characteristic of the theremin – apart from its mysterious sound – is the way it is played:

  •     There are no keyboards,
  •     no finger boards,
  •     no strings, valves, hammers or pipes.
  •     There is nothing to blow on, or into.

The performer literally “plays the air” around the instrument, making absolutely no physical contact with it. Thus the phrase was born, “music from the ether.”

Wednesday, March 10, 2:30pm
Nicholas Music Center
Douglass Campus

For more information go to imlc.rutgers.edu/theremin

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Lothars at Massart this Friday

The Lothars make one of their frequent rare live appearances this Friday at the Massachusetts College of Art.

The Lothars make one of their frequent rare live appearances this Friday at the Massachusetts College of Art. Here are the details:

EVENTWORKS presents ELECTRONIC CONCERTO:
a night of Non-Dance Oriented Electronic Music
with Mild Visual Stimulation.

Friday, February 27th, 6:00 – 10:30pm.
Mass College of Art
Tower Building Auditorium, 1st floor
621 Huntington Ave. at Evans Way, Boston

Performing (in this order): Robert Byrd, Dave Matorin, Roman Stange, The Lothars, Soplerfo, and Misterinterrupt. Opening wine and cheese reception from 6pm to 7pm; the Lothars will be playing at around 8:30pm. Video improvisation by Dr. T.

Admission is $5; all ages are admitted.
Advance Tickets: e-mail zebbler@comcast.net
Directions: http://www.massart.edu/about/directions.html

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The Art of Noise

Luigi Russolo (1885 – 1947), Italian futurist painter and musician and inventor of the “intonarumori” expounded his musical theories in 1913 in this manifesto entitled “L’arte dei rumori” (The Art of Noises) in which he presented his ideas about the use of noises in music.

Luigi Russolo ca. 1916.

Luigi Russolo ca. 1916.

Dear Balilla Pratella, great Futurist composer,

In Rome, in the Costanzi Theatre, packed to capacity, while I was listening to the orchestral performance of your overwhelming FUTURIST MUSIC, with my Futurist friends, Marinetti, Boccioni, Carrà, Balla, Soffici, Papini and Cavacchioli, a new art came into my mind which only you can create, the Art of Noises, the logical consequence of your marvelous innovations.

Ancient life was all silence. In the nineteenth century, with the invention of the machine, Noise was born. Today, Noise triumphs and reigns supreme over the sensibility of men. For many centuries life went by in silence, or at most in muted tones. The strongest noises which interrupted this silence were not intense or prolonged or varied. If we overlook such exceptional movements as earthquakes, hurricanes, storms, avalanches and waterfalls, nature is silent.

Amidst this dearth of noises, the first sounds that man drew from a pieced reed or streched string were regarded with amazement as new and marvelous things. Primitive races attributed sound to the gods; it was considered sacred and reserved for priests, who used it to enrich the mystery of their rites. And so was born the concept of sound as a thing in itself, distinct and independent of life, and the result was music, a fantastic world superimposed on the real one, an inviolatable and sacred world. It is easy to understand how such a concept of music resulted inevitable in the hindering of its progress by comparison with the other arts. The Greeks themselves, with their musical theories calculated mathematically by Pythagoras and according to which only a few consonant intervals could be used, limited the field of music considerably, rendering harmony, of which they were unaware, impossible.

The Middle Ages, with the development and modification of the Greek tetrachordal system, with the Gregorian chant and popular songs, enriched the art of music, but continued to consider sound in its development in time, a restricted notion, but one which lasted many centuries, and which still can be found in the Flemish contrapuntalists’ most complicated polyphonies. The chord did not exist, the development of the various parts was not subornated to the chord that these parts put together could produce; the conception of the parts was horizontal not vertical. The desire, search, and taste for a simultaneous union of different sounds, that is for the chord (complex sound), were gradually made manifest, passing from the consonant perfect chord with a few passing dissonances, to the complicated and persistent dissonances that characterize contemporary music.

At first the art of music sought and achieved purity, limpidity and sweetness of sound. Then different sounds were amalgamated, care being taken, however, to caress the ear with gentle harmonies. Today music, as it becomes continually more complicated, strives to amalgamate the most dissonant, strange and harsh sounds. In this way we come ever closer to noise-sound.

This musical evolution is paralleled by the multipication of machines, which collaborate with man on every front. Not only in the roaring atmosphere of major cities, but in the country too, which until yesterday was totally silent, the machine today has created such a variety and rivalry of noises that pure sound, in its exiguity and monotony, no longer arouses any feeling.

To excite and exalt our sensibilities, music developed towards the most complex polyphony and the maximum variety, seeking the most complicated successions of dissonant chords and vaguely preparing the creation of MUSICAL NOISE. This evolution towards “noise sound” was not possible before now. The ear of an eighteenth-century man could never have endured the discordant intensity of certain chords produced by our orchestras (whose members have trebled in number since then). To our ears, on the other hand, they sound pleasant, since our hearing has already been educated by modern life, so teeming with variegated noises. But our ears are not satisfied merely with this, and demand an abundance of acoustic emotions.

On the other hand, musical sound is too limited in its qualitative variety of tones. The most complex orchestras have only four or five types of instrument, varying in timber: instruments played by bow or plucking, by blowing into metal or wood, and by percussion. Thus modern music goes round in this small circle, struggling in vain to create new ranges of tones.

This limited circle of pure sounds must be broken, and the infinite variety of “noise-sound” conquered.

Besides, everyone will acknowledge that all musical sound carries with it a development of sensations that are already familiar and exhausted, and which predispose the listener to boredom in spite of the efforts of all the innovatory musicians. We Futurists have deeply loved and enjoyed the harmonies of the great masters. For many years Beethoven and Wagner shook our nerves and hearts. Now we are satiated and we find far more enjoyment in combinating in thought the noises of trams, backfiring motors, carriages and bawling crowds than listening again to, for example, the “Eroica” or the “Pastoral”.

We cannot see that enormous apparatus of power that the modern orchestra represents without feeling the most profound disappointment at the miserable acoustic results. Is there anything more ludicrous than seeing twenty men furiously bent on the redoubling the mewing of a violin? All this will naturally make the music-lovers scream, and will perhaps enliven the sleepy atmosphere of concert halls. Let us now, as Futurists, enter one of these hospitals for anaemic sounds. There: the first bar brings the boredom of familiarity to your ear and anticipates the boredom of the bar to follow. Let us relish, from bar to bar, two or three varieties of genuine boredom, waiting all the while for the extraordinary sensation that never comes. Meanwhile a repugnant mixture is concocted from monotonous sensations and the idiotic religious emotion of listeners buddhistically drunk with repeating for the nth time their more or less snobbish or second-hand ecstasy. Away! Let us break out since we cannot much longer restrain our desire to create finally a new musical reality, with a generous distribution of resonant slaps in the face, discarding violins, pianos, double-basses and plainitive organs. Let’s go out!

One cannot objecting that noises are exclusively loud and unpleasant to the ear. I think it’s pointless to enumerate all the graceful and delicate noises that arouse pleasant sensations.

To convince ourselves of the amazing variety of noises, it is enough to think of the rumble of thunder, the whistle of the wind, the roar of a waterfall, the gurgling of a brook, the rustling of leaves, the clatter of a trotting horse as it draws into the distance, the lurching jolts of a cart on pavings, and of the generous, solemn, white breathing of a nocturnal city; of all the noises made by wild and domestic animals, and of all those that can be made by the mouth of man without the need of speaking or singing.

Let us cross a great modern capital with our ears more alert than our eyes, and we will get enjoyment from distinguishing the eddying of water, air and gas in metal pipes, the grumbling of noises that breathe and pulse with indisputable animality, the palpitation of valves, the coming and going of pistons, the howl of mechanical saws, the jolting of a tram on its rails, the cracking of whips, the flapping of curtains and flags. We enjoy creating mental orchestrations of the crashing down of metal shop blinds, slamming doors, the hubbub and shuffling of crowds, the variety of din, from stations, railways, iron foundries, spinning wheels, printing works, electric power stations and underground railways.

Nor should the newest noises of modern war be forgotten. Recently, the poet Marinetti, in a letter from the trenches of Adrianopolis, described to me with marvelous free words the orchestra of a great battle:

“every 5 seconds siege cannons gutting space with a chord ZANG-TUMB-TUUMB mutiny of 500 echos smashing scattering it to infinity. In the center of this hateful ZANG-TUMB-TUUMB area 50 square kilometers leaping bursts lacerations fists rapid fire batteries. Violence ferocity regularity this deep bass scanning the strange shrill frantic crowds of the battle Fury breathless ears eyes nostrils open! load! fire! what a joy to hear to smell completely taratatata of the machine guns screaming a breathless under the stings slaps traak-traak whips pic-pac-pum-tumb weirdness leaps 200 meters range Far far in back of the orchestra pools muddying huffing goaded oxen wagons pluff-plaff horse action flic flac zing zing shaaack laughing whinnies the tiiinkling jiiingling tramping 3 Bulgarian battalions marching croooc-craaac [slowly] Shumi Maritza or Karvavena ZANG-TUMB-TUUUMB toc-toc-toc-toc [fast] crooc-craac [slowly] crys of officers slamming about like brass plates pan here paak there BUUUM ching chaak [very fast] cha-cha-cha-cha-chaak down there up around high up look out your head beautiful! Flashing flashing flashing flashing flashing flashing footlights of the forts down there behind that smoke Shukri Pasha communicates by phone with 27 forts in Turkish in German Allo! Ibrahim! Rudolf! allo! allo! actors parts echos of prompters scenery of smoke forests applause odor of hay mud dung I no longer feel my frozen feet odor of gunsmoke odor of rot Tympani flutes clarinets everywhere low high birds chirping blessed shadows cheep-cheep-cheep green breezes flocks don-dan-don-din-baaah Orchestra madmen pommel the performers they terribly beaten playing Great din not erasing clearing up cutting off slighter noises very small scraps of echos in the theater area 300 square kilometers Rivers Maritza Tungia stretched out Rodolpi Mountains rearing heights loges boxes 2000 shrapnels waving arms exploding very white handkerchiefs full of gold srrrr-TUMB-TUMB 2000 raised grenades tearing out bursts of very black hair ZANG-srrrr-TUMB-ZANG-TUMB-TUUMB the orchestra of the noises of war swelling under a held note of silence in the high sky round golden balloon that observes the firing…”

We want to attune and regulate this tremendous variety of noises harmonically and rhythmically. To attune noises does not mean to detract from all their irregular movements and vibrations in time and intensity, but rather to give gradation and tone to the most strongly predominant of these vibrations. Noise in fact can be differentiated from sound only in so far as the vibrations which produce it are confused and irregular, both in time and intensity. Every noise has a tone, and sometimes also a harmony that predominates over the body of its irregular vibrations. Now, it is from this dominating characteristic tone that a practical possibility can be derived for attuning it, that is to give a certain noise not merely one tone, but a variety of tones, without losing its characteristic tone, by which I mean the one which distinguishes it. In this way any noise obtained by a rotating movement can offer an entire ascending or descending chromatic scale, if the speed of the movement is increased or decreased.

Every manifestation of our life is accompanied by noise. The noise, therefore, is familiar to our ear, and has the power to conjure up life itself. Sound, alien to our life, always musical and a thing unto itself, an occasional but unnecessary element, has become to our ears what an overfamiliar face is to our eyes. Noise, however, reaching us in a confused and irregular way from the irregular confusion of our life, never entirely reveals itself to us, and keeps innumerable surprises in reserve. We are therefore certain that by selecting, coordinating and dominating all noises we will enrich men with a new and unexpected sensual pleasure. Although it is characteristic of noise to recall us brutally to real life, the art of noise must not limit itself to imitative reproduction. It will achieve its most emotive power in the acoustic enjoyment, in its own right, that the artist’s inspiration will extract from combined noises.

Here are the 6 families of noises of the Futurist orchestra which we will soon set in motion mechanically:

1 2 3 4 5 6
Rumbles Whistles Whispers Screeches Noises obtained by percussion on metal, wood, skin, stone, tarracotta, etc. Voices of animals and men:
Roars Hisses Murmurs Creaks Shouts
Explosions Snorts Mumbles Rustles Screams
Crashes Grumbles Buzzes Groans
Splashes Gurgles Crackles Shrieks
Booms Scrapes Howls
Laughs
Wheezes
Sobs

In this inventory we have encapsulated the most characteristic of the fundamental noises; the others are merely the associations and combinations of these.

The rhythmic movements of a noise are infinite: just as with tone there is always a predominant rhythm, but around this numerous other secondary rhythms can be felt.

Conclusions:

  1. Futurist musicians must continually enlarge and enrich the field of sounds. This corresponds to a need in our sensibility. We note, in fact, in the composers of genius, a tendency towards the most complicated dissonances. As these move further and further away from pure sound, they almost achieve noise-sound. This need and this tendency cannot be satisfied except by the adding and the substitution of noises for sounds.
  2. Futurist musicians must substitute for the limited variety of tones posessed by orchestral instruments today the infinite variety of tones of noises, reproduced with appropriate mechanisms.
  3. The musician’s sensibility, liberated from facile and traditional Rhythm, must find in noises the means of extension and renewal, given that every noise offers the union of the most diverse rhythms apart from the predominant one.
  4. Since every noise contains a predominant general tone in its irregular vibrations it will be easy to obtain in the construction of instruments which imitate them a sufficiently extended variety of tones, semitones, and quarter-tones. This variety of tones will not remove the characteristic tone from each noise, but will amplify only its texture or extension.
  5. The practical difficulties in constructing these instruments are not serious. Once the mechanical principle which produces the noise has been found, its tone can be changed by following the same general laws of acoustics. If the instrument is to have a rotating movement, for instance, we will increase or decrease the speed, whereas if it is to not have rotating movement the noise-producing parts will vary in size and tautness.
  6. The new orchestra will achieve the most complex and novel aural emotions not by incorporating a succession of life-imitating noises but by manipulating fantastic juxtapositions of these varied tones and rhythms. Therefore an instrument will have to offer the possibility of tone changes and varying degrees of amplification.
  7. The variety of noises is infinite. If today, when we have perhaps a thousand different machines, we can distinguish a thousand different noises, tomorrow, as new machines multiply, we will be able to distinguish ten, twenty, or thirty thousand different noises, not merely in a simply imitative way, but to combine them according to our imagination.
  8. We therefore invite young musicians of talent to conduct a sustained observation of all noises, in order to understand the various rhythms of which they are composed, their principal and secondary tones. By comparing the various tones of noises with those of sounds, they will be convinced of the extent to which the former exceed the latter. This will afford not only an understanding, but also a taste and passion for noises. After being conquered by Futurist eyes our multiplied sensibilities will at last hear with Futurist ears. In this way the motors and machines of our industrial cities will one day be consciously attuned, so that every factory will be transformed into an intoxicating orchestra of noises.

Dear Pratella, I submit these statements to your Futurist genius, inviting your discussion. I am not a musician, I have therefore no acoustical predilictions, nor any works to defend. I am a Futurist painter using a much loved art to project my determination to renew everything. And so, bolder than a professional musician could be, unconcerned by my apparent incompetence and convinced that all rights and possibilities open up to daring, I have been able to initiate the great renewal of music by means of the Art of Noises.

Luigi Russolo

Milano, 11 Marzo 1913.

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Erik Satie

Erik Alfred Leslie Satie (May 17, 1866 – July 1, 1925) was a French composer.

Born in Honfleur, Basse-Normandie, France, Satie was a music composer, and a performing pianist, though mainly for café and cabaret audiences. Satie wrote theatre and ballet music, as well as piano music. His compositions are original, humorous, often bizarre, and very minimalistic. His music is sometimes called furniture music, supposed to be in the background of everyday life. It is evidently is (anti)-romantic and also anti-impressionistic. Satie eventually became a leading figure of the French avant-garde.

Today he is regarded as one of the important forebears of minimalism, and John Cage cited him as a major influence. His work is also considered a forerunner of ambient music.

He did not begin to be taken seriously as a composer by his contemporaries until he was in his forties. In 1917 the first performance in Paris of the ballet Parade (the orchestration of which included parts for typewriter, foghorn and rattle) caused a scandal, which established his name as a composer. Satie wrote this ballet together with Jean Cocteau and Pablo Picasso for the Russian impresario Serge Diaghilev, leader of the Ballets Russes.

His other works include:

Recordings of his complete works have recently been published on Swedish Society Discofil, performed by Olof Hojer.

Satie gave his piano pieces names like Unpleasant Glimpses, Genuine Flabby Preludes (for a dog), or Old Sequins and Old Breastplates. He accompanied the scores of these pieces with all kinds of written remarks, through which he insisted that these should not be read out during performance.

Satie was known as an eccentric, and amongst other things he started his own church (with himself as the only member). Every day of his working life Satie left his apartment in the Parisian suburb of Arcueil to walk across the whole of Paris to either Montmartre or Montparnasse before walking back again in the evening.

A penniless bohemian, Satie wore a top hat, a flowing lavaliere, and a pince-nez. His room at 6 rue Cortot was next door to artist Suzanne Valadon. They began an affair in January 1893, and Satie proposed marriage that same night. The only relationship of his life, he became obsessed with the beautiful artist, whom he called his “Biqui”, writing impassioned notes about “her whole being, lovely eyes, gentle hands, and tiny feet.” Valadon painted Satie’s portrait and gave it to him but after six months, the beautiful Suzanne moved on, leaving Satie brokenhearted. After his death, her portrait of him (shown here) was found in his room at Arcueil.

Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel were among Satie’s friends. Although not hailed by the masses, he was admired by many young composers and musicians and was a big influence on Debussy in particular.

Satie was the center of Les Six, a group of six French composers (Georges Auric, Louis Durey, Arthur Honegger, Germaine Tailleferre, Darius Milhaud and Francis Poulenc). The group advocated clear musical language, and opposed impressionism (for example Debussy and Ravel), slavism (Stravinsky) and post-Wagnerism (Schoenberg) in music.

Satie died in Arcueil, Val-de-Marne, Île-de-France, and was interred there in the Cimetiere d’Arcueil.

[This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article: Erik Satie.]

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Minimalism

Minimalism describes movements in various forms of art, especially visual art and music, where the work is stripped down to its most fundamental features. In other fields of art, it has been used to describe the plays of Samuel Beckett, or the films of Robert Bresson, or the stories of Raymond Carver, for example.

Visual minimalism

A minimalist painting, for example, will typically use a limited number of colours, and have a simple geometric design. Among the most notable minimalists in the visual arts are Frank Stella, Donald Judd and Carl Andre (See List of minimalist artists).

Musical minimalism

In classical music of the last 35 years, the term minimalism is sometimes applied to music which displays some or all of the following features: repetition (often of short musical phrases, with subtle variation over long periods of time) or stasis (often in the form of drones and long tones); emphasis on consonant harmony; a steady pulse. The word “minimalism” was first used in relation to music in 1968 by Michael Nyman in a review of Cornelius Cardew’s piece The Great Digest. Nyman later expanded his definition of minimalism in music in his 1974 book Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond.

While many people find minimalist music less difficult music to listen to than serialism and other current avant-garde classical reason, for some, it is easy music to find annoying, due to all the repetition. Others find the same repetition entrancing. The most prominent minimalist composers are John Adams, Philip Glass, Steve Reich, and Terry Riley; while La Monte Young is generally credited as the “father” of minimalism.

There is much variety in the music called minimal, in every regard from instrumentation to structure to technique. The early compositions of Glass and Reich tended to be very austere, with little embellishment on the principal theme, and written for small instrumental ensembles (of which the composers were members), made up, in Glass’s case, of organs, winds–particularly saxophones–and vocalists, in Reich’s case with more emphasis on mallet instruments. (These works would be scored for any combination of such instruments: one piece by Reich, the aptly named Six Pianos, is scored just so.) Adams’ works have most often been written for more traditional classical forces: orchestra, string quartet, even solo piano. (Though all four major minimalists have written symphonies and quartets, none have written them so exclusively as Adams.) His works tend also to be much more approachable for the classical ear; there is a minimalist core to his work, but there is also much very classical composing behind his compositions, and a phrase in an Adams work is less likely to stay unchanged and in the same instrument(s) for a long time than in would be in another minimalist’s work. Some of Adams’ orchestral works have been described as “maximalist”, although this is not a word that would be widely recognized by reviewers.

It should be noted that the minimalist movement in music bears only an occasional relationship to the movement of the same name in visual art. This connection is probably one reason why many minimalist composers dislike the term. Philip Glass, whose group initially performed at art galleries where his minimalist visual artist friends were showing, reportedly said of minimalism, “That word should be stamped out!”

While many people find minimalist music less difficult music to listen to than serialism and other current avant-garde classical reason, for some, it is easy music to find annoying, due to all the repetition. Others find the same repetition entrancing. The most prominent minimalist composers are John Adams, Philip Glass, Steve Reich, and Terry Riley; while La Monte Young is generally credited as the “father” of minimalism.

There is much variety in the music called minimal, in every regard from instrumentation to structure to technique. The early compositions of Glass and Reich tended to be very austere, with little embellishment on the principal theme, and written for small instrumental ensembles (of which the composers were members), made up, in Glass’s case, of organs, winds–particularly saxophones–and vocalists, in Reich’s case with more emphasis on mallet instruments. (These works would be scored for any combination of such instruments: one piece by Reich, the aptly named Six Pianos, is scored just so.) Adams’ works have most often been written for more traditional classical forces: orchestra, string quartet, even solo piano. (Though all four major minimalists have written symphonies and quartets, none have written them so exclusively as Adams.) His works tend also to be much more approachable for the classical ear; there is a minimalist core to his work, but there is also much very classical composing behind his compositions, and a phrase in an Adams work is less likely to stay unchanged and in the same instrument(s) for a long time than in would be in another minimalist’s work. Some of Adams’ orchestral works have been described as “maximalist”, although this is not a word that would be widely recognized by reviewers.

It should be noted that the minimalist movement in music bears only an occasional relationship to the movement of the same name in visual art. This connection is probably one reason why many minimalist composers dislike the term. Philip Glass, whose group initially performed at art galleries where his minimalist visual artist friends were showing, reportedly said of minimalism, “That word should be stamped out!”

See also post-minimalism, process music.

[This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article: Minimalism.]

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Eri II: Making People Happy with the Theremin

An interview with Japanese singer and thereminist Eri Ii. 

Eri II is a Japanese singer and thereminist. She received classical voice training from Masako Ueno (who studied with Mario Del Monaco) and, more recently, she began to learn the theremin. We’ve had the luck to listen to her charming theremin playing thanks to her uploads in the Thereminvox.com library, then we felt the need to know something more about her. This is what she said.

Eri II

Eri II.

Saggini: Tell me about your activity as a musician and a thereminist.

Eri II: I compose music and write lyrics as well. I’ve written music for radio shows and for commercials (toys, candies, Yamaha musical instruments and also environment campaigns). Furthermore, I sing Disney songs for children.

Saggini: When did you start learning the theremin and why?

Eri II: I knew about the theremin from Beach Boys and Led Zeppelin’s music. Then in October of 2002, I bought my first theremin, joined the Japanese Friends of the Theremin association and attended Mr. Masami Takeuchi’s courses.

Mr.Takeuchi learned the theremin under the guidance of Ms. Lydia Kavina and introduced the theremin in Japan. I was impressed by his playing… the movements of his hands were not futile and the pitch was perfect.

My method of playing is the same of Mr. Takeuchi and Ms. Lydia.

Saggini: Are there affinities between your singing voice and your theremin playing?

Eri II: Theremin’s expressive method resembles vocal music. Loud voice and low voice. There is refreshing fluctuation. Since I can understand vocal exercises, I can play the theremin, adapting to it.

Moreover, I love the sound of a beautiful Cello. I like the Cellist Mischa Maisky. I went to his concert and listened to many of his CDs. His concert has been a source of inspiration and I adopted his expressive method as a model to follow.

Saggini: Have you recorded any cd’s?

Eri II: There is a work but not a Theremin one. Currently, my theremin recordings are available only as streaming audio on the web so they can be heard all over the world. I will release a cd one day or another.

Saggini: Do you play other instruments?

Eri II: I play a little keyboard, guitar and drums.

Saggini: Tell me about your repertoire.

Eri II: I play pop music. My theremin performances are fine and bright. My aim is to make people happy. However, power of expression aims at a dynamic thing which is classic.

Saggini: I see from your site that you own three theremins: a Moog Music Etherwave, a Kees and a tVox tour. Which is your favourite and why?

Eri II: The Moog Etherwave is a complete musical instrument. It’s easy to transport and very easy to tune.
The raising of volume is smooth. Adjustment of the apparatus is also easy. Moreover, I like the sound of Etherwave. It is very obedient and powerful.

Listen to Eri II’s audio clips in the Thereminvox.com Audio Library

External links

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Masami Takeuchi: First Professional Thereminist of Japan

The Japanese theremin scene is a lively one. But it’s not easy to find information about it since most of the web sites are in Japanese language only and Japanese theremin enthusiasts usually do not participate in English language online forums. The result is that Japan is like a theremin world apart. That’s why I’ve asked Gak Sato, a Japanese musician and producer living and working in Milan (Italy), to write something about it. (V.S.)

Born in Saitama, Japan, in 1967, Masami Takeuchi is perhaps the most popular thereminist in Japan. After graduating from Osaka University of Arts, in 1993 he began to study theremin under the guidance of Lydia Kavina. Founder of the “Friends of the Theremin” association, which currently counts about 200 members, Takeuchi has performed in more 140 concerts and appeared in over 90 TV and radio shows. He has published a biography of Léon Théremin (Ether Music and the Man who Lived 20th Century Russia, 2000), and his first CD Time Slips Away appeared in 2001.

Masami Takeuchi

Masami Takeuchi.

Sato: What is your musical background?

Takeuchi: As a child I devoted myself to the recording of environment sounds and noises and I was interested in recording technologies.

Later, when I was 15, I began playing keyboards and did some composition. Then I enrolled at the Osaka University of Arts where I took the musicology course, a parte of which was devoted to sound synthesis and, in general, music technologies.

Sato: How did you become a thereminist?

Takeuchi: I was looking for a personal instrument, one with which I could establish a closer relationship. Then by chance one day I heard Clara Rockmore‘s CD and was fascinated by the sound of the theremin. I felt the desire to play it, because this instrument allows for much greater interaction, more direct control… something you can’t find in any other existing musical instrument.

The Theremin in Japan

The theremin was heard in Japan for the first time in 1930 thanks to the arrival of a 78 rpm record by Lennington Shewell. The first theremin, sent by RCA Corporation, reached the country the following year and was tested by the mezzo-soprano Mitsuko Watanabe, but she wasn’t able to play it.

Shortly before the arrival of the theremin, the Japanese had their first contact with the Ondes Martenot, which was demonstrated by Claude Martenot himself and was very successful. The theremin, on the other hand, was perceived as an unfinished and primitive instrument. Later, the perception of the theremin was similar to that of other countries, where the common image of the instrument was that given by sci-fi soundtracks and rock musicians like Jimmy Page.

It was only with the arrival of Clara Rockmore‘s CD The Art of the Theremin in the early 1990s that the perception of the theremin in Japan began to change.

But the love affair of the Japanese with the theremin began only at the end of the 1990s, thanks to the initiatives of Masami Takeuchi and his intense proselytizing activity. Takeuchi founded the “Friends of the Theremin” association, taught courses, gave concerts, published CDs and two books and appeared in TV and radio shows.

The release, in 2001 of Steven Martin’s movie Theremin. An Electronic Odyssey has given a further boost to the theremin in Japan. (V.S.)

I started searching for information on the theremin and found an article about early electronic instruments written in 1979 by Prof. Kuniharu Akiyama (a poet, scholar of the 20th-Century avant-gardes with a passion for Erik Satie, and builder of an “intonarumori) which briefly mentioned the theremin. I found another mention of the theremin in a music dictionary. Both sources said the theremin was an unstable instrument, difficult to play on pitch. Then, in 1992, Bob Moog wrote an article on the theremin for the Japanese Keyboard Magazine which was the first really informative Japanese language article on the theremin.

Sato: Then what happened?

Takeuchi: In 1993 I went to Russia and stayed there more than a year to learn from Lydia Kavina. Then I began to play the theremin professionally in Japan, and in 1999 I started teaching it. Since 1999 my courses have been attended by more than 300 persons. Currently I have over 100 students. In 2000 I wrote the book Ether Music and the Man who Lived 20th Century Russia and the subsequent year I published the CD Time Slips Away. In 2002 I’ve published the method for theremin Playing the Theremin which includes a CD. I have appeared in many TV and radio shows and last year I marketed the Matryomin.

In 2003 I parted from “Friends of the Theremin” and founded the “Takeuchi Theremin Institute”, which publishes Thereminik, a monthly magazine, and in two years will make an archive and documentation centre (paper, audio, video) on the theremin available to members.

Sato: How many theremins do you have and what models?

Takeuchi: I have an old Pavlov theremin, a Big Briar Series 91a, a Big Briar Ethervox, a Big Briar Etherwave and a t-Vox tour.

Sato Which is your favorite?

Takeuchi: For concerts and recording sessions I’ve been using only the Series 91a since 1997. This is because of the better tone and volume control. Also, the Series 91 has a built-in speaker and that’s important because the vibration is transmitted to the body of the player and the audience through the floor, both in small and large concert halls. Those who manufacture theremins should be aware of the importance of a built-in speaker.

Masami Takeuchi and his Big Briar Series 91a theremin.

Masami Takeuchi and his Big Briar Series 91a theremin.

Sato: Who has had the most influence over your theremin playing and what kind of music are you playing now?

Takeuchi: Clara Rockmore and Lydia Kavina.

I’m not interested in any kind of contemporary music. When I’m at home I don’t even listen to music, I always read books.

Sato: Have you played with other Japanese thereminists?

Takeuchi: “Friends of the Theremin” arranges meetings in which we play together.

Sato: How long did it take you to master the instrument?

Takeuchi: I still haven’t reached that level.

Sato: What are some of your future projects?

Takeuchi: For now, I’d like every spectator at my concerts to bring a Matryomin so we can play together.

Sato: Any other projects?

Masami Takeuchi's theremin method cover.

Masami Takeuchi’s theremin method cover.

Takeuchi: I’d like to produce a Japanese theremin, since based on my experience with theremin playing I have some ideas to improve the instrument.

Sato: Do you think there are flaws or aspects to improve in the theremin as a musical instrument?

Takeuchi: In term of functions it’s complete. It isn’t necessary to add anything. It all depends on who is playing it. The only problem is the interference that happens between two theremins when they are close to each other. That is a problem that needs to be solved.

Sato Would you like to play some other instrument?

Takeuchi: No.

Sato: Have you played other instruments created by Prof. Theremin?

Takeuchi: The Terpsitone.

Sato: Nowadays, to make music it is common to use the computer. What do you think about it?

A page from Masami Takeuchi's theremin method

A page from Masami Takeuchi’s theremin method.

Takeuchi: I’m not interested in this because this is someone else’s job. As an interface, the theremin is very sensitive; unlike the computer, you have immediate feedback.

Sato: What about the theremin used as a controller?

Takeuchi: To me it’s not interesting.

Sato: Is there something else you would like to say?

Takeuchi: In Japan the theremin is by now widespread, as much as other instruments. Office workers, at the end of the working day, attend theremin courses. Some of my students have reached the professional level, but to them the theremin is still a hobby. I still don’t know why the theremin has become so popular in Japan. It has probably touched a chord.

Sato What is the extent of the spread of the theremin in Japan?

Takeuchi: It is difficult to quantify, but it may suffice to say that I’ve had 300 pupils. In 2001 Steven Martin’s movie Theremin. An Electronic Odyssey was released in theatres, and this has caused the Japanese people to be aware of what a theremin is. There were also TV shows, so it is pretty well known.

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Intonarumori

The Intonarumori were a family musical instruments invented in 1913 by italian futurist painter and musical composer Luigi Russolo. They were acoustic noise generators that permitted to create and control in dynamic and pitch several different types of noises. 

Luigi Russolo (left) and his assistant Ugo Piatti with their Intonarumori

Luigi Russolo (left) and his assistant Ugo Piatti with their Intonarumori.

The Intonarumori were a family musical instruments invented in 1913 by italian futurist painter and musical composer Luigi Russolo. They were acoustic noise generators that permitted to create and control in dynamic and pitch several different types of noises.

Drawing of an Intonarumori

Drawing of an Intonarumori.

Each instrument was made of a wooden parallelepiped sound box with a carton or metal speaker on its front side. The performer turned a crank or pressed an electric button to produce the sound whose pitch was controlled by means of a lever on top of the box. The lever could be moved over a scale in tones, semitones and the intermediate gradations within a range of more than one octave.

Internal mechanism of a “Ronzatore – gorgogliatore” intonarumori (ca 1913)

Internal mechanism of a “Ronzatore – gorgogliatore” intonarumori (ca 1913).

Inside the box there were a wooden or metal wheel (whose shape or diameter varied depending on the model) that make a catgut or metal string vibrate. The tension of the string was modified by means of the lever allowing glissandos or specific notes. At one end of the string there is a drumhead that transmits vibrations to the speaker.

Luigi Russolo's "intonarumori" in 1919

Luigi Russolo’s “intonarumori” in 1919.

There were 27 varieties of intonarumori with different names according to the sound produced: howling, thunder, crackling, crumpling, exploding, gurgling, buzzing, hissing and so on.

The invention of the intonarumori was the natural outcome of Russolo’s musical theories expounded in his 1913 manifesto L’arte dei rumori (The Art of Noise) in which he presented his ideas about the use of noises in music.

Intonarumori orchestra, Paris 1921

Intonarumori orchestra, Paris 1921.

The first public appearance of the intonarumori took place in 1913 at Modena’s Teatro Storchi, where Russolo presented an “exploder”. In 1914 he took concerts in Milan (Teatro Dal Verme), Genoa (Politeama) and London (Coliseum). In 1921, after WWI, he presented three concerts in Paris (Théatre des Champs-Elysées) and, in 1922, participated in Filippo Tommaso Marinetti’s play Il tamburo di fuoco with some musical backgrounds made with the intonarumori.

Enharmonic notation for intonarumori by Luigi Russolo ("Risveglio di una città")

Enharmonic notation for intonarumori by Luigi Russolo (“Risveglio di una città”).

Apart from the 1913 manifesto, Russolo exposed his ideas in an article entitled Grafia enarmonica per gli intonarumori futuristi (Enharmonic Notation for the Futurist Intonarumori) published by the Lacerba magazine, where he introduced a new type of musical notation which is still in use among electronic music composers; and in his 1916 book L’arte dei rumori (The Art of Noises).

Cover of Luigi Russolo's 1916 book "L'arte dei rumori".

Cover of Luigi Russolo’s 1916 book “L’arte dei rumori”.

Luigi Russolo’s work drawed attention of composers and artists like Honegger, Strawinsky, Ravel, the Group of Six, Milhaud, De Falla, Casella, Varèse (who also presented, in 1929, Russolo’s last public concert during the inauguration of an exhibition of futurist painters at the Galerie 23 in Paris), Kahan, Diaghilev, Claudel and Mondrian who wrote about the intonarumori in an article for the De Stijl magazine.

Listen to the sound of intonarumori
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