Friday, March 16, 2007

FriPod: Hey, Shorty!

Two weeks ago I listed the longest tracks on my iTunes. This week I am looking at the shortest tracks. But I've decided to modify things, as there are many recitatives at this end. This doesn't seem fair to me, as it is easy to make a short transition from one aria to the next. This goes for those little second movements in Baroque concerti as well, and the variations of a theme-n-variations. What is challenging is to compose a complete musical work that is very short. So I am only including those tracks that are complete works in themselves. This narrows the field greatly, as the first thirty-some tracks fit in these categories.

1. Contredanse No. 8 by Beethoven, performed by Michael Tilson Thomas and the Orchestra of St. Luke's. 25 seconds.

2. Contredanse No. 1, same composer and performers. 25 seconds.

3-5. Contredanse Nos. 4, 11, and 2; 27 seconds each.

6. Fiona Kicks Ass, by Harry Gregson-Williams & John Powell, from the Shrek soundtrack. 28 seconds. I don't feel bad about including this, as it is a complete musical idea.

7. Les Rendez-Vous De Chasse Qu Les Vendanges Interrompues Par Les Chasseurs - No. 15 Allegro, by Georg Joseph Vogler, performed by Darmstädter Hofkapelle and Wolfgang Seeliger. 28 seconds. This is some ballet music from the guy who you can blame for Roman Numeral analysis. Again, it is a complete musical idea.

8. "Mira, deh mira, Orfeo" from Monteverdi's Orfeo, performed by . 31 seconds.

As I'm looking at the list and narrowing it down, I've realized that the first truly complete work, something that isn't a movement or section of a larger piece, is "1,2,3" by Charles Ives, performed by Susan Graham. This is 35 seconds long, and way down on the list of shortest tracks. (The shortest track of all is 11 seconds.) It isn't too surprising that the shortest complete work will be a song, as it has a text to give it a sense of unity and closure.

In this vein, no. 2 is "Viva Ignacio! Viva!" by Gaspar Fernandes, performed by Ex Cathedra. Another song, or rather motet in this case. 38 seconds.

No. 3: Canon Du Carousel, by André Danican Philidor, performed by Nick Norton & Anthony Plog. 41 seconds. A trumpet duet with brass accompaniment. Our first instrumental work, it is a textbook canon.

No. 4: "Amor vittorioso" by Giovanni Giacomo Gastoldi, performed by the King's Singers. 43 seconds.

No. 5: "Change of Time" from Bela Bartok's Mikrokosmos, performed by Jando. I don't think this is cheating, since the whole Mikrokosmos is not intended to be performed as a complete work. In the same way I wouldn't feel bad about listing a fugue from the Well-Tempered Klavier. 43 seconds.

I wonder what the average time would be if I grouped all multi-movement works as one track? Leaving everything separate the average is 4'43" (Cage was sooo close). And the philosophical question of the day: Can a musical work seem complete in less than ten seconds?


the improvising guitarist said...

Doesn’t answer your question, but a couple of tracks from iTunes:

Napalm Death, ‘Dead’, 0' 05"
John Zorn, ‘End Title’ from Filmworks VII, 0' 13"

AFAIK, both have done shorter works, but not available on iTunes.
Doesn’t seem like much for your $0.99… (Incidentally, I note that iTunes has put an “explicit” warning on Zorn/Naked City’s ‘F**k the Facts’ [sic.] despite there being no discernible lyrics.)

S, tig


There's a recording of Rorem's "I am Rose" on the iTunes store that clocks in at 22 seconds, with the composer at the piano. Susan Graham's recording of the same takes a luxurious 29 seconds. Of course, the advantage of such recordings is that one can sample them in their entirety on the iTunes music store.

The shortest "complete" track on my iTunes is Pogorelich's 24-second rendition of Chopin's e-flat minor prelude.

When it comes to long tracks, that makes me think of my experience trying out the service. Because their pricing essentially makes really long tracks cost no more than short ones, I became obsessed with finding the best bargains. I found there a 45-minute one-track version of Terry Riley's "In C." I also got a one-track Verklarte Nacht that's about 28 minutes. I couldn't stay with the service because the maddening pricing drove me crazy.


Well, I just noticed Rorem has a 19-second version of "I am Rose" on the iTunes store with Regina Sarfaty. That's pretty definitely the shortest "complete" work I can think of. I'm having trouble imagining something that could come in under 10 seconds. Perhaps a Joyce Hatto "recording" of the Chopin e-flat minor prelude?