Saturday, November 19, 2011

Program notes for final masters recital (now with video)


Kleines harmonisches Labyrinth, Introitus
Johann David Heinichen (formelly BWV 591)

Moro, lasso, al mio duolo, Part 1 (from Madrigals for 5 Voices, Book 6)  –
Carlo Gesualdo

Something We Can Dance To
Marc Hannaford

Fuga a 4 Sogetti, Part 1
J.S. Bach (BWV 1080/19)

Chicken Man
Marc Hannaford

Fuga a 4 Sogetti, Part 2

Anda One
Marc Hannaford

Elliott Carter

Kleines harmonisches Labyrinth, Centrum

La Loriot, Part 1
Oliver Messiaen

We Talk in Jests
Marc Hannaford

Fuga a 4 Sogetti, Part 3

Moro, lasso, al mio duolo, Part 2

La Loriot, Part 2

Fuga a 4 Sogetti, Part 4

Thelonious Monk

Fuga a 4 Sogetti, Part 5


* * *

Marc Hannaford (piano) James Mclean (drums) Sam Pankhurst (double bass)

My recital arranges various musical works into a kind of musical labyrinth, the outer-most “wall” of which is Bach’s final fugue from The Art of Fugue. Heinichen’s Kleines harmonisches Labyrinth symbolises the listener’s journey through the maze, while original pieces and improvisations, as well as works by Gesualdo, Carter, Messiaen, Monk, act as ornamentations.

The inspiration for my arrangement, which, in its dualism between background structure and foreground ornamentation, also recalls Elliott Carter’s compositions that include structural rhythmic frameworks, stems from two sources. The first is literary and the second, musical (but with a literary background).

In his book Bach and the Patterns of Invention, Laurence Dreyfus analyses works by J.S. Bach through “the inverse of synthesis or composition.”[1] By uncovering embedded generative qualities in musical subjects he shows how they and their  transformations play structural (rather than purely developmental) roles: “Within the composition of a thematic idea . . . Bach is especially adept at encoding mechanisms that ensure its elaboration.”[2] The generative nature of Bach’s subjects and their development allow me to regard particular pitches, registers, harmonies and rhythmic figures in BWV 1080/19 as “portals” to other pieces by a variety of composers. The result is an hour-long program that encompasses a variety of pieces into (as I will explain) an incomplete whole. The pieces overlap (reminiscent of Mozart’s Don Giovanni or Charles Ives’s Symphonies), are embedded one in another (similar to sample culture in hip-hop) or are juxtaposed.

Kleines Harmonisches Labyrinth, once thought to be by J.S. Bach, illustrates a journey into, through and out of a labyrinth, with J.S. Bach as the Minotaur. Harmonically, entry to the labyrinth is symbolised by a progression from C major through a series of false cadences to ever distant key centres. The labyrinth’s centre contains a short but highly chromatic fugue containing Bach’s name (also a feature of the final section of BWV 1080/19). Heinichen’s piece points to something outside itself; it is incomplete in that encourages the listener to form associations between the purely musical and the extra musical. Incompleteness creates a mystery (particularly in a space such as a recital where completeness is the norm) that invites active listening. Music that is deliberately incomplete “invite[s] completion from the outside.”[3] That is, the listener is invited to be absorbed by the music, rather than simply absorb it.

Incompleteness pervades my entire program: no piece is given a complete rendition according to the published score except for Bach’s fugue, which was left unfinished by the composer. Labyrinths and incompleteness are entwined; labyrinths must be incomplete to invite our participation. Already “completed” puzzles are closed entities the require nothing more from the outside; they are autonomous.

My time in the Masters of Music (by Research) course at in the Faculty of the VCA and Music has spawned many developments for my playing and thinking. It has, however, included far more germs of ideas that are waiting to be developed. Hence it seems fitting that incompleteness is the central theme for this recital; my degree will show its true value in the coming years, when I have a chance to research, apply and develop the many concepts that are yet to mature.


Dreyfus, Laurence. Bach and the Patterns of Invention: Harvard University Press, 2004.
Leppert, Richard and Susan McClary, ed. Music and Society: The Politics of Composition, Performance and Reception: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

* * *


Donna Coleman

John McCaughey

Simon Barker

Elliott Gyger

Kate Morris

James Mclean

Sam Pankhurst

Emily Thomson

Here's almost all of the video of the performance: the camera cut out a little way toward the end . . .just click on the "watch" tab.

[1] Laurence Dreyfus, Bach and the Patterns of Invention (Harvard University Press, 2004), 10.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Shepherd, John. 1987. Musical and Male Hegemony. In Music and Society: The Politics of Composition, Performance and Reception (Cambridge University Press,1990), ed. Richard and Susan McClary Leppert, 164.

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