Concert opener

The first piece on my recital is Rebonds B by Iannis Xenakis.  The piece Rebonds was originally intended to be performed as a double movement piece named A and B respectively.  However it has become quite accepted to isolate either movement and perform either A or B without the other.   There are numerous interpretations and renditions (some really interesting versions on YouTube) that can be found and debated.

The work is composed by Iannis Xenakis a Greek, though Romanian born, and first formally trained as an architect and engineer.  His life was no stranger to trial, losing his mother at a young and being gravely injured and scarred in the Greek civil war. He also composed music that is usually very much misunderstood or negated by those who stumble upon it without perspective.  Xenakis was not just an architect that simply wanted to design office buildings, but one very keen on mathematical theory and practice.  His works incorporate whirls of sounds that can bend like a straight-line curve (or parabolic line).

What you’re listening to:

A sometimes barbaric conversation with bongos, conga (tumba), large bass drum, bongos (2 drums), and 5 woodblocks.  So that makes 5 drums and 5 woodblocks.  This symmetry is no accident.  Notice that the piece starts solely with the membranophones (drums with a head/membrane) without the woodblocks.  There is usually a statement on the drums with the bongos driving and then brief transitional breaks from the pulsing bongos to focus on just the lower pitched drums.

When the woodblocks enter, it is stark and extremely contrasting.  But this entrance is then interrupted by the drums.  This happens more than once and as the piece progresses, see if you can identify when the woodblocks start to incorporate WITH the drums.  There is a conflicting, disjointed nature between the two voices as they struggle to find a reasonable balance between them.  Look at the top line, and even if you can’t read music (or don’t read this stuff) you can see the top staff and bottom staff seem disjointed and interrupting.  It’s like an argument. (click to enlarge.)

The final section, which is commonly slowed down and treated like a recitative or solo coda, is the harmonious geometric alignment of both the drums and the woodblocks voices.  It ends with one note on a woodblock, one on a drum over and over with different patterns until it is one going down and one up.  It looks like this:

It is a masterful work that can easily be accidently categorized as “simple.” That is a woeful mistake.

Now if I can just learn it better…


1 Comment

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One response to “Concert opener

  1. Tom

    can you find anything harder to do? pretty amazing piece.


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