Mp3 Blog #1: Discordance, Gloria, and Communion


Iannis Xenakis:
Bohor (1962)
For electonic sounds in eight channels (mixed down to two)

Glenn Branca:
Symphony #3 (Gloria); Movement I (1983)
Music for the first 127 intervals of the harmonic series

Pierre Henry:
Messe de Liverpool; Communion (1967)
Musique concrète

A friend of mine recently suggested starting a contemporary music mp3 blog to share and promote some great, yet fairly obscure, music. I was instantly reminded of some similar suggestions I’ve been given in the past, an old dream of programming my own radio show, and this blog at Sequenza21. After sifting through my collection and getting some ideas I decided to post this, the first in a series of mp3 blogs – Discordance, Gloria, and Communion.

The first piece I’ve chosen is my favorite tape piece by Iannis Xenakis – Bohor. This work is dedicates to Pierre Schaeffer, who didn’t quite appreciate this piece, saying “Boror was in the worst case (I do mean, best) the wood fires of his beginnings. No longer were we dealing with small embers, but with a huge firecracker, an offensive accumulation of whacks of scalpel in your ears at the highest level on the pentiomenter.” (“Chroniques xenakiennes,” Regards sure Iannis Xenakis (1991) 85) To fully appreciate this work I recommend listening to it (preferably with headphones) at the loudest tolerable volume to better appreciate Xenakis’s slow construction and demolition of a stunning sonic architecture.

The second mp3 is the first movement from Glenn Branca’s Symphony #3 (Gloria). This symphony is scored for a collection of amplified metal wires (which Glenn Branca invented) and drums. Similar in concept to some of La Monte Young’s sound installations, this symphony derives its material from the harmonic series. As the work unfolds, the listener is gloriously enveloped by the first 127 harmonics of the archetypal rock fundamental – E.

The final piece is the last movement of Pierre Henry’s Messe de Liverpool. This complete work is closely linked of the traditional Mass form. For example, in every movement except the last, the music contains spoken fragments from ordinary mass. These fragments are transformed and overlaid with other sounds in the type of imaginative and engaging paths that only Pierre Henry creates. These paths are so miraculous and extraordinary that one only realizes that he or she has arrived at the final communion by the time the final movement is half over.

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