Saturday, August 12, 2006

Begin at the Beginning...

I spent time during our drive up to Canada yesterday pondering what it means for the beginning of a musical work to sound like it is the beginning. Karlheinz Stockhausen, that crazy composer from Venus, composed moment-form music with the intent of portraying eternity.
Each moment... is individual and self-regulated, and able to sustain an independent existence... moments are not merely consequents of what precedes them and antecedents of what follows; rather than concentration on the Now -- on every Now -- as if it were a vertical slice dominating over any horizontal conception of time and reaching into timelessness, which I call eternity: an eternity which does not begin at the end of time, but is attainable at every moment.

I can understand his attempt to create moments that can be ordered in any way, so there is no overall logic that demands a particular ordering. But does this prevent the first moment heard from sounding like a beginning? Berio blurred the lines of beginning in Sequenza III by having the singer come on stage muttering. The beginning of the piece occurs before the audience is ready, so it is eternal in a sense. But with Stockhausen's moment forms, the audience is prepared for the start of the work. Is that all that is necessary, or did Stockhausen remove another quality that is equally necessary for a beginning? More thoughts later.

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