Sunday, 31 January 2016

Harmony, Sound Colour and Beyond

We have been working on Bax symphonies and trying to solve many puzzles this impressive collection of musical material presented. 1st symphony opens with an announcement.  The dark diminished 7th Eb chord is played by the low register dark woodwind accompanied by tremolo gong – crescendo pp to p. This is stabbed by two harps ff playing the same chord arpeggiated over two octaves. This is dramatic enough. But the announcement continues with the same chord and entirely different timbre of strings, bass-oboe and flutes to present a ferocious rhythmic figure leading to yet another statement of the chord with a different timbre. All this drama packed into a few bars is achieved by the repetition of the same chord using different timbre. This hard to forget opening statement is not really harmonically very interesting. After all it is only one chord. Rhythmically it is Taaaa Tram, tah  ta ta ta taaah. Not earth-shaking either. So what makes this opening phrase memorable? One may suggest that is meticulous orchestration and in this case the orchestration is excellent, unfortunately the answer is not that straight forward. In fact, the question posed is not the right question; I think it is just as important to ask: Did we miss something? Is there another musical property we should include into our considerations when we are dealing with music produced by a group of dissimilar instruments rather than a single type? The answer to this is yes, there is another property that is rarely mentioned or considered.

In his book "Sound Colour", Wayne Slawson described what he called sound colour which is not the same as timbre. The timbre is defined by "All ways that two sounds of the same pitch, loudness, and apparent duration may differ". Timbre is a flexible definition that may or may not include vague descriptor such as tone quality; but when all said and done timbre is a measurable quality which can be fully defined using physical parameters and measured or codified by the properties of the sound wave spectrum. On the other hand, according to Slawson's definition, "sound colour is a property or attribute of auditory sensation; it is not an acoustic property. Similarly visual colour is a perceptual attribute, not a property of light." (1)

Without going into the technical details of the sound colour theory or using its principles, it is easy to see that the mixture of timbres in the opening phrase of Bax's first Symphony provide the colours of the sound painting. I am sure these colours will be perceived differently by each listener. Even if a general agreement can be achieved with respect to the implied general meaning of the phrase, the emotional details, filtered by the experiences of each listener will differ. That is not the significant point. The distinction between orchestration and use of sound colour is similar to mixing of paints (orchestration) and using the mixed paint in ways that will enable the composer to convey his/her ideas in creative ways. To demonstrate this is possible. In an old composition, I used only two instruments that were capable of producing different pitches (Timpani and orchestral tubular bells) and each instrument was limited to 3 pitches, (Timpani; A, F, D and bells E, G, B) the rest of the instruments were percussion instruments without defined pitch. The choice of beaters and the attack was left to the eight (8) players who played bass, snare and taiko drums, cymbals, Large and medium gongs, and eight orchestral stationary tom-toms. Clearly, harmony and tone centres of this composition are undefined. But listening to it, one senses an undefinable (of course) but palpably perceivable harmonic progression. The rhythms are not regular, or march like and often enough they are not very interesting, and the mesmerising quality of some dance rhythms are not there. Yet, in combination with other colours the piece provides a coherent picture and a friend very familiar with open hearth steel mills remarked how well it captured the work atmosphere in any one of those old fashioned mills.

While I have a number of percussion rich pieces, this is the closest to a pure undefined pitch composition I know of.  Probably, there are other and better pieces in the literature that would fit the only colour requirement, and I would have preferred to use a piece written by someone else instead of my piece.

This is also a brief note on the potential opportunity for discovering new colours through combination of percussion instruments. It requires experimentation and that requires assistance from a friend or colleague. It is another tool in the composer's tool-kit. However, the use entails availability of a music store with a friendly proprietor who would let you and one or more friends try out combinations of percussion instruments. There might be a few such locations that would be willing to help you out but it requires considerable luck to find one. The music director or the percussion tutor of a local school orchestra or marching band as well as the percussionists from a local symphony orchestra might be willing to make suggestions and help you.

A possible but less satisfactory solution is the use of computer generated or sampled percussion instruments. It is definitely a less inconvenient possibility but the sounds are generally not as rich as the acoustic instruments, I have not found one that will accommodate different beaters –  if there is one, most likely it is a very pricey venture.

In addition to percussion instruments a great deal of sounds can be generated using a digital synthesis technique. This also opens up possibilities for experimentation and discovery of different colours. Those who would like to carry out experiments to discover new colours would be well advised to plan the experiment carefully, record the trials and assess the quality of combinations for your artistic needs. With so many variables associated with percussion (such as beaters, the contact point from centre towards the rim, etc. will have a significant effect on the combination of sounds produced).

"Sounds of an  Old Steel Mill" can be found in Soundcloud through the link:



The score can be Downloaded from IMSLP – Its number is #408862, If you wish to print it, please note that it is on a B4 paper and must be shrunk to fit A4 or 8 ½ x 11 paper


(1) Wayne Slawson "Sound Color " University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London (1985) pp(18 – 21)

The Ken Hannaford reworking of "Sounds of an  Old Steel Mill" using sampled metal sounds can be heard at:
https://soundcloud.com/hannafordsounds/steel-factory-remix

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Jeff Lade - Music review

Jeff Lade is a regular poster on G+, when one encounters a person in this fashion it is Impossible not to construct some sort of mental image of the character.  I mention this because there seems to be a discrepancy between the written word and the music.  The G+ posts are often straight speaking and political, the music is far more inward directed and reflective. There are other types of messages which spread information, e.g. helpful and supportive news, this is reflected in music which is intimate and companionable, sometimes not far off the four part harmonies of chorales / hymns. Jannnat has many of these characteristics, with its repetitive and lyrical linear movement.  Listening to the phrase structure not only is there repetition and gradual variation, but the rhythms produce lines of music close to the rhythms of speech, quite intimate speech.  In this work the linear progressions form some dissonant chords but it is gentle resolution that closes the music that is most memorable.  The melodic phrasing is regularly repeated and works like a fixed motif.

Another contrast between text and music arises from the titles. While these are personal they are not always wholly revealing. At the worst when they seem descriptive as in Composer - odd rhythm, and jazz world, and western harmonies, to have the video then display "Little ditties" throws the listener off balance. However once inside the music clarity prevails, in this piece there is a warm conclusion generated again from simple figures (mostly descending in this case). From these short motifs the composer manages to conjure many different types of music, everything from fairground music to gamelan.  The performance in my mind should be faster than in the video shared and the metronomic playing on the marimba detracts rather than enhances the movement of the music.
Tina's Chatter again has rolling events based on diatonic and pentatonic material.  The recurring material is used like a 'head' in jazz binding fragments of music together but permitting various degrees of play to follow.
The movement "Ricare 3 Stoogies" displays a score and the sparseness of material is apparent to anybody takes time to follow the reductions and expansions of the fifth based material.  It is wonderful how simple rhythmic and melodic figures combine and sustain repetition here.  It seems strange to me that with the composer's passion for matters American including many of its composers, that the music, especially in this style, sounds so un-American, Jeff might like to comment on this, and several other points and give us a clearer picture of his background and intentions.
The last two pieces Bach Ala Mode and Bach rhythmic cross phase both have, as indicated in the titles quotation at their heart, it would be hard to miss.  The latter piece is skillfully worked; the concluding section from the sul ponticello is delightfully worked and logical in its outcome.  The Bach Ala Mode has two layers constantly contrasting, as if presenting two different aspects of a personality.  What comes through in both is a linear progression that sustains the intention of the music. The interplay between pulses is well crafted in both works.
The works that Jeff Lade has chosen to share have many common characteristics and intentions; I would like to hear more of the music to understand the development of his musical thought.  It is no easy matter to express oneself with the bare minimum of musical material, and easy to hide behind complexity. It is refreshing and a pleasure to know of composers who aim for this level of craftsmanship.



Nurtan’s opinion:

Jeff's pieces reminded me of Allen Ginsberg poetry: Read without paying attention to detail they sound hollow and at times childish, but when read with care they are thoughtful and carry their message with an aesthetically sound, musically clear manner. The message is not always obvious – sometimes obfuscated by the title - but, the compositions as a whole are compact and complete and all said and done they represent a commendable effort. They show expertise and sensitivity as well as a tinge of humour which enriches the generally Spartan approach. I am very impressed.


Jeff Lade compositions on you tube are found below:

Jannnat is on soundcloud only: https://soundcloud.com/jeff-lade/jannnat

J
Lade
Looped 3 Stoogies Ricare
J
Lade
Miniscule ditty/odd rhythms and jazz world and western harmonies
J
Lade
Tina's Chatter
J
Lade
Bach ala mode 1
J
Lade
Electronic crossphasing, rhythmic mash up

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Links to G+ composer's works

KHannafordFantasy on Fragments of Frank Bridgehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kCJNr8oHT8
KHannafordAbbey Archeshttps://plus.google.com/u/0/+KenHannaford/posts/AyB9cyfvVwG?pid=6183261572425714114&oid=109459659443776195343
KHannafordDreams in Extreme Old Age for String Quartethttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lsFdNsOeh9E
KHannafordOdd is Lovehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqACUWHZk34&feature=youtu.be
KHannafordShapeshifterhttps://plus.google.com/u/0/+KenHannaford/posts/AyB9cyfvVwG?pid=6217385621308974546&oid=109459659443776195343
KHannafordIn Memoriam J. Harveyhttps://plus.google.com/u/0/+KenHannaford/posts/AyB9cyfvVwG?pid=6136515360396409442&oid=109459659443776195343
KEsmenAftershock Op. 60https://soundcloud.com/naesmen/aftershock-op-60
NEsmenA Murder Mysteryhttps://soundcloud.com/naesmen/a-murder-mystery-op-67#t=0:00
NEsmenRhythmic Variations No 1 Op. 5https://soundcloud.com/naesmen/rhythmic-variations-please-see
NEsmen4 Miniatures with the Same Cadence Op.38https://soundcloud.com/naesmen/four-miniatures-with-the-same#t=0:00
NEsmenAncient Airs and Dances Op. 68https://plus.google.com/u/0/+KenHannaford/posts/AyB9cyfvVwG?pid=6174611141482817378&oid=109459659443776195343
NEsmenOctet Op.52https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/102522266104884135001
GSollazziFreud and the Moonhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VP69CSEKv40
GSollazziEvoked Potential Culthttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJuPwhkhoUA
GSollazziForse neanche il futuro (Perhaps even the future)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3OW7IRU7Vw
GSollazziPiano Sonata the first movementhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52gOo2oqWhI
GSollazziGelida torre (Cold tower)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wIsJhS16A8Y
GSollazziFor Maurizio Pollinihttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOkfOfhTOsI
JLadeLooped 3 Stoogies Ricarehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APeaIPzggTQ&list=PLnXizuFpyiSwGSEMPBu5svLXhSaV-D0rC&index=4
JLadeMiniscule ditty/odd rhythms and jazz world and western harmonieshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWsTmrY8yPU&list=PLnXizuFpyiSwGSEMPBu5svLXhSaV-D0rC&index=3
JLadeTina's Chatterhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GWzjpCBwZl8&list=PLnXizuFpyiSwGSEMPBu5svLXhSaV-D0rC&index=6
JLadeBach ala mode 1https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MywE2Vn3Ubw&list=PLnXizuFpyiSwGSEMPBu5svLXhSaV-D0rC&index=5
JLadeElectronic crossphasing, rhythmic mash uphttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VzNIuo3DqD0&list=PLnXizuFpyiSwGSEMPBu5svLXhSaV-D0rC&index=2
JLadeJannnathttps://soundcloud.com/search?q=jeff%20Lade

Monday, 25 January 2016

The Zen of Musical reasoning.

The following section added some thoughts to the diagram and has been moved here at a later date.

A walk through the use of the "Zen of Musical Reasoning" as a tool to analysis. 

The music chosen to illustrate the use of the mind map is the third section of Bernstein's Chichester Psalms.  The blog is written more or less in real time and models my way of thinking about a composition in the process of analysis.  It would be useful to have a copy of the mind map to follow my train of thought, but it isn't vital.

The music, if it has a single intention, seems to be artistic in that it is a song of praise, based on Psalm 133 verse 1, and the whole of Psalm 131.
As my Hebrew is nonexistent I went to my copy of the RSV for translations.131 reads:
O Lord my heart is not lifted up,
My eyes are not raised too high,
I do not occupy myself with things
Too great and too marvelous for me
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
Like a child quieted at its mother's breast....

133 reads:
behold, how good and pleasant it is
When brothers dwell in unity.

So we have a meditative and humble attitude (which some might see as contrary to the flamboyant figure in Bernstein) and a coda about reconciliation and accord.

As this seems to have covered the top boxes on the artistic side the third criteria should be dealt with, does the music engage the emotions?  Clearly the answer is yes, but there is mixed emotions here, the opening is quite severe but each of the alternating phrases has a different character.  The opening 19 bars are like a dialogue where the fourths based opening phrase is adamant and the stepwise phrase gradually yields to the main body of the music from 20.  It seems we have a self-portrait preparing us for the Psalm.

Working the technical side it seems that the main intention is to explore a pair of fourths as a motive, C/G with F/B flat, taken from the opening phrase. This is reworked in the Adonai section which opens with a pentatonic figure D,E, A,G,B, itself rich in fourths,/fifths. The answering phrase is chromatic though the placing of the fifths in the bass resolves the tension at the close of the phrase.  This call and respond like arrangement continues until bar 27 when the phrases overlap and the calming effect of long pedal notes brings increased calm to the music. 

With a work that is dominated by artistic intention (Bernstein describes how he had turned his back on serialsim in a poem written about the Chichester Psalms) it is not surprising to find that the design is in part determined by the text with word painting.  At bar 35 with "my soul is as a weaned child" we have a stream of sixths on D/B and C'/A' suggesting a gentle rocking motion, such as in a lullaby, so satisfying the concept of a cliché in the music.  Why 6ths when the main material is based on fifths?  Sixths are more gentle and appropriate; the pitches B/D open the answering phrase at the opening of the movement leading to a chain of third's in the upper part against a chain of fourths in the lower.

The history of Chichester Psalms is easy enough to research so I shall save time and avoid comment on that.

I’ll  express a personal point of view and say that Bernstein is exploring a love of sound based on studies of composers close to his own heart.  There is an element of homage to Stravinsky both in technique and pure sound. 
One can never really know another person's religious views but there is great empathy with the text and the sound of the words (no English translation in the score).  There are several references to church music in the score, particularly in the harmonies for and placement of the voices.

Having generated the main body of my commentary my intention would be to concentrate further on the technical side and resolve some of the following questions:

Is the music bitonal in sections? If not what is the logic behind the progression of the chords particularly in the opening 20 bars.
There appears to be a continual progression towards G particularly from 45 onwards, is this prepared for throughout the movement.
Does the movement stand alone in the progression or are the three movements linked by motifs and design.

When Nurtan read through this commentary he became quite enthusiastic about the matter of bitonality, so I’ll enclose his reply:

Is the music bitonal in sections? if not what is the logic behind the progression of the chords particularly in the opening 20 bars. I think it
is. Minor third or sixth bitonal arrangements provide for natural
pentatonic relationship - like the pentatonic chords in the Fabric of
Sounds. Also bitonal arrangements will transfer between the tonic and the
dominant seamlessly. Following this logic if G is the primary tonic any
operation on its dominant D (for that matter on subdominant C the will be
seamlessly transferred to G. D/B bitonal fits this picture pretty well.

There appears to be a continual progression towards G particularly from 45
onwards, is this prepared for throughout the movement. If G is the principal
tonality then this may not be prepared for throughout the movement. Without
saying that it is not a continual progression towards G, the bitonality will
make the progression very natural so that it will feel like a continual
progression towards this center.

With bitonal writing, the relationships and the chords are naturally developed or suggested, 
so even if it is an unintentional or deliberate progression, the combinations generated with the bitonality, D may suggest one.

Does the movement stand alone in the progression or are the three movements linked by motifs and design?
I think it is a continuous piece with respect to both motives and design. I am not sure at this point; I haven't listened to the Psalms for some time. 
Nurtan

Friday, 22 January 2016

Takemitsu "Les Yeux Clos II"

Odilon Redon painted a series of works on the theme "Les Yeux Clos" in 1890, he says that the images were made with the most diluted paint, making the subject, the face of his wife, near transparent on the canvas.  When Takemitsu took the same title he worked his music with a clarity of texture that approached Redon's ideal. 

The pitch content is primarily driven by the use of a limited mode (of eight pitches) in its 3 transpositions. The modes are shown below as pitch classes where C =0
M1: 0,1,3,4,6,7,9,10
M2: 1,2,4,5,7,8,10,11
M3: 0,2,3,5,6,8,9,11
There are phrases where a single note or pair of notes are outside the mode, usually as a dissonance to a surrounding phrase.  Once the sound of the mode is familiar to the listener the majority of the music is easily heard as being derived from it, and the pitches outside the mode are never destructive to its character. One of the most apparent features of the mode is the pairing of semitones, and the tension created by the use of semitones is heard from the outset in "Les Yeux Clos II". The semitone isn't the only formation available from the mode and Takemitsu makes his musical intentios clear from the start.


Here all the material is taken from M1 and forms two layers, the upper part is the open fifth on C'/G', a tolling bell figure in keeping with the title. The use of the open fifth is kept for this figure to highlight its importance to the concept of the music.  The middle texture is built from a pair of semitones, C/D flat and F'/G, so the C/G forms a transposed fifth at the semitone, and a pair of augmented fourths a semitone apart C/F' and D flat/G. The augmented fourths are also present in the bass as B flat/E, E flat A. These formations are heard throughout the work, and make the form of the composition clear. The semitone dissonance is a vital element in the drama of the music, and is only diminished in importance in the closing bars where the tensions, particularly of the central section, are released.
The opening five bars act as an introduction to the work as a whole and the remaining sections are clear and simple to distinguish.
In the second section the chord passages become a major feature, these form a continuous chain of collections formed from a perfect fourth in combination with an augmented fourth, the latter in the bass, the tetrachords are added to by a semitone or tone dissonance to form a pentachord when desired, the placement of the additional note depending on the linear material surrounding the chords.

There is a strong connection in these chords to passages in Impressionist music, enhanced by the simple contours shaped by the chords which contrast with the widely spaced figures which decorate the music.
The music of "Les Yeux Clos II" forms three distinct layers, the chords, the rapid figures and the slowly evolving melodic strands, often having repeated material. The following example breaks down one of the rapid figures to show the use of the mode, three inks are used to clarify their use.  One pitch lies outside the mode marked in red where it forms a semitone cluster.

The melodic element has already been introduced in bar 4 and the close of bar 6, but plays a more extensive role from the next section starting at bar 11.
Repetition plays a more prominent role here, particularly in bars 11 to 19 . The example given below is taken from one of the long measures, bar 13, where the music is based on the M3.  The 'melodic' character is introduced by a three pitch figure on G' B (repeated) F, passing through two superimposed four note figures (x and y) to a five note group (z) where the augmented fourth/ perfect fifth collection is heard. Figure y, the lower melodic shape is given prominence in bar 18 where it is heard on its own.

From bar 19 we have the fourth section where the music becomes more vertically dense though the melodic character is sustained.  At 19 selected pitches are articulated by the use of octaves and repetition, opening with B flat , A, B flat and a long held C sharp (M1). By the long measure at 27 this has extended to B flat, C (repeated) C' E , again repeated with a final F', all harmonised by M1 with the exception of two pitches which form an augmented fourth pair in the upper parts. The pitch collection forming the melody continues through bar 28, another extended measure.  It is not surprising to hear that these long measures contain a high degree of coherence by either interval construction, repetition or rhythmic design.  This way Takemitsu composes localised groups of similarities within the whole structure, sometimes made wholly clear by larger scale repetition.
Bar 31 is a softer repeat of 30 and marks the end of the section.

The fifth is the final part with a short coda to close. The passage can be heard as a reworking of the A section, where the music is increasingly refined.  Though the material is clearly from the opening Takemitsu brings in the theme from bars 27 and 28 into the texture, both the first bar material and this theme are M1 based. Only as we get to these closing measures do we become fully aware of how the decorative figures have disappeared leaving this calm and static close. The life of the music has ebbed so progressively that the conclusion is both inevitable and natural.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Art v architecture.  The music of Takemitsu.

There is no shortage of commentaries on Takemitsu's music, and there is a great deal of agreement on the main issues.  For this reason the blog will restrict itself to matters of interest for composers and the general listener of contemporary music.

The main point of interest is that Takemitsu's music does not conform to the principles of strict organisation.  This makes Takemitsu more of a craftsman in his approach than an architect, or as the music historians would have us understand, a gardener who places his timbres and phrases with an eye for balance of colour and form.  For those who enjoy gardening (like my wife) there is a need to form collections or groups of plants in groups, as singular plants are easily lost, having heard this stated throughout my life I shall take it as gospel!  If the metaphor holds one should hear collections of phrases of similar material with spaces to articulate the design of the garden, much as seen in the image below.

There are early works which make use chance elements and as such fall outside the restricted and ordered world of modality, these include "Ring" 1961, "Corona"  1962, and "Dorian Horizon" 1966.  There is a recording of "Corona" by Roger Woodward which demonstrates admirably the contrast between control and freedom in Takemitsu's hands. There is no You Tube video of this, the Jim O’ Rourke version is more restrained with the drone / improvisation contrast discussed in previous blogs more apparent.

 Images of the graphic scores, those I have been able to find, show an artistic economy of line and space with some musical indicators to provide recurring motifs or approximations of motifs.
The modal interest which is the main concern of these articles can be heard from the earliest works, "Green" contrasts dissonant music and gentle modality. That description underplays the range of expression in the music where he first impression one gets is the influence of Messiaen, bird song included.  Repeated hearings bring out a wealth of detail which eventually binds into a stream of continuous lyricism behind the orchestral fragmentation.
Reading about Takemitsu's early life there was an appear in the lyrical quality of popular songs heard on the radio, and there are biographical indications that Takemitsu regularly sang through his musical ideas whilst involved in their creation. The distillation of sounds in the final minute of the work is masterful in its economy.  The recording with Knussen is available on You Tube, where it has received less than a hundred views at this time!

The use of modality becomes increasingly refined throughout his artistic life, with age there is refinement of style and simplicity. The restrictions placed on the use of modes will be illustrated with examples from Les Yeux Clos II (1988).  There is a score with this music so readers may follow up in greater detail the ideas presented here.

Takemitsu's music makes use of a wide range of techniques of organisation, modes, counterpoint, and repetition in abundance, all of which gives a clarity to the music which makes it immediately accessible. Taking a chordal progression from Les Yeux Clos one can hear that the motion is quite simple, a movement of parallel perfect and augmented fourths spiced with a further semitone dissonance, the result is a series of closely related chords lacking the precision of serial music, but beautiful and clearly distinct as a unit for repetition and development in the work as a whole.



Analysts have found several methods of working around the in exact placement of notes chords and sections including reasonable percentage levels of accuracy on one hand and non-musical accounts on the other.  Perhaps the best indicator of use for inexperienced composers is that Takemitsu reserves the right to add and subtract notes from collections as he pleases; the antithesis of serial approaches, and perhaps a reaction against slavish imitation, which would be frowned upon in the Tao!
For the composers reading this blog the association between Cage and Takemitsu requires comment, though I will try and keep the Zen references to the minimum (despite the fact that both Nurtan and I have some interest in this philosophy / religion). For me the most important musical influence lies as much in Taoism as Zen, the balance of forces in Ying and Yang, and where there is balance, the tension created between the two extremes. It may have been Cage that made Takemitsu aware of the musical importance of silence, but in Japanese culture the philosophical theory would be well understood.  While silence is a feature of Takemitsu's thinking, sustained and dying sounds (decrescendo) are most significant, particularly in the piano works where the pedal is of considerable importance. These long ‘pauses’ are useful for shaping the composition by breaking the music into short paragraphs of evolving textures, they also permit intense and complex figures to be heard and musically "examined" by the listener.
The movement of parallel chords and similar sounding chords is familiar to any audience of jazz music particularly from Oscar Peterson onwards, and it is of little surprise that Takemitsu experienced and enjoyed the sounds of jazz from an early age.  Add to the mix his fondness for  the music of Debussy, Faure, Frank and most importantly Messiaen, one has no difficulty relating his ‘modern’ textures to these roots.
As stated, the clarity and simplicity of Takemitsu's style becomes ever more apparent in his late period, Nostalghia is one of the most accessible of his late works.  Before listening to the recording play the 0,1,4,5,8,9 hexachord and get the sound of the superimposed augmented triads in your head (use C natural for 0) and the music becomes remarkably clear to follow.
The music is a reflection on a film by Tarkovsky of the same name, there are two short clips of the film available on YouTube which speak volumes about pace, dwelling on a moment in time and the tension created between sounds.

The symbolism in the second clip of making the journey with a candle without its being extinguished may be comprehended by a practitioner of Zen as being similar to the task of reaching for a goal (enlightenment) in which the achievement results in the death of self. The use of Verdi’s music at the final moment is as chilling as it is beautiful.  It is of little wonder that Takemitsu wanted to write a musical commentary on this remarkable film.
Of the modes used the octatonic mode (2nd mode of limited transposition) occurs with some frequency, the example below is again taken from Les Yeux Clos.

It may be noted that mode 6 is also used regularly by Takemitsu, in Forte's classification the two modes are 8-25 0,1,2,4,6,7,8,10 and 8-28 0,1,3,4,6,7,9,10.  One characteristic of both modes is that the regularity of spacing prevents hierarchical references such as found in tonal music, as a result the music can create a sense of stillness, valuable to his creation of contrast between paragraphs of music.  There is no naivety in the use of these modes, the placement of notes show both an awareness of articulating localised harmonic areas and creating tension by voicing the progression of individual phrases.


The self-imposed restriction of a thousand words for these blogs means that a number of beautiful and remarkable extracts have been passed over, but I hope that the blog has opened a window on Takemitsu’s method and philosophy. Most of all as a guide to younger composers one should take away two ideas, firstly that exact and rigorous control is not an absolute necessity, and secondly the old adage “be true to yourself” is an essential part of the creative process, even if it isn’t taught on academic courses.