Musica universalis : for Theremin and Harmonic Bells
by Andrián Pertout (2014)
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'Musica universalis' or 'Music of the Spheres' was commissioned by Moscow-born, London-based theremin virtuosa Lydia Kavina, who began to study the instrument at the age of nine under the guidance of her first cousin twice removed and inventor of the theremin, Léon Theremin (1896-1993). The work serves as an exploration of a variety of compositional techniques developed by American composer, pianist and theorist Henry Cowell (1897-1965), and presented in his monumental publication of New Musical Resources (1930), as well as melodic, harmonic and rhythmic transformation based on the theoretical writings of Russian composer, music theorist, and composition teacher Joseph Schillinger (1895-1943) - published posthumously as part of a two-volume work entitled The Schillinger System of Musical Composition (1978). Additionally incorporated in the work are the musical implications of the Rhythmicon (an instrument built in 1931 by Léon Theremin at the request of Henry Cowell capable of sounding any rhythmic beat combination based on the harmonic series up to the 16th partial via a 17-note keyboard) in conjunction with compositional techniques derived from Joseph Schillinger's writings that include: (1) "the incorporation of the 91 three-unit scales available in the first sixteen partials of the harmonic series to deliver simultaneities based on all 91 three-part harmonic structures", (2) "the alternation between clockwise and anti-clockwise circular permutations by 3 elements", and (3) "the combination of the gradual addition and subtraction of the original melodic structure split into three (or more) elements (the time axis on abc) delivering symmetry growth along the time axis". Thematic material includes two historical Russian melodies recomposed utilizing Schillinger's concepts of "continuity composed through the time axis": a spiritual verse (Kniga Golubinaya, The Dove Book, Riazan province), and a gospel stichera, or greater chant (Gospel Sticheron by Feodor the Christian [16th Century]).
Instrumentation: Theremin (Russian tVOX Tour model) and Tape – The Federation Bells (39 Harmonic and Polytonal Bells).
Duration: 7 min.
Difficulty: Advanced — Professional
Commission note: Commissioned by Lydia Kavina.
First performance: by Lydia Kavina — 3 Dec 14. Ace Hotel: London Shoreditch, London, England, UK
The composer notes the following styles, genres, influences, etc associated with this work:
Léon Theremin (1896-1993) Henry Cowell (1897-1965) New Musical Resources (1930) Joseph Schillinger (1895-1943) The Schillinger System of Musical Composition (1978) Rhythmicon (1931) Kniga Golubinaya, The Dove Book, Riazan province Gospel Sticheron by Feodor the Christian (16th Century)
Composer's work No. 427
Performances of this work
3 Dec 14: Ace Hotel: London Shoreditch, London, England, UK. Featuring Lydia Kavina.
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