Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Chaconne: Body through which the dream flows

Mikhail pointed to a performance of John Adams' Violin Concerto by Leila Josefowicz. I was nearly enraptured at several points, and rather taken in by the second movement, Chaconne: Body through which the dream flows. Adams describes his chaconne as more enclosed than the D minor Chaconne of Bach, as "a kind of dreamy, filmy, almost diaphanous slow movement." He remains ambivalent about it and doesn't intend to compose any more chaconnes. What draws me into the movement is the ground bass and the distance that opens up between the violin and the orchestra, a middle space reserved for listening, for thinking or for dancing.

Adams gives his thoughts on pulsation. He says at one point in the interview, "the world of intricate polyrhythms is often more hypothetical than real." This sounds pretty abstract to me. However, he turns around and says:

I’m trying to find ways to enrich the experience of perceiving the way time is divided. I’ve never been interested in music that denies pulsation. You can tell me that a Carter work has pulsation and it’s just a very abstracted pulsation, but I’m sorry …if I can’t hear pulsation, if I can’t feel it, then for me it doesn’t exist. It may exist theoretically, but for me it's not there. I need to experience that fundamental tick. What I’m trying to do now is enrich that experience.

Now, I vaguely recall Philip Glass saying something about a difficulty he had in communicating musically with Ravi Shankar, and how it had to do with his (Glass's) assumption that one divides rather than multiplies or adds time. Adams again:

[W]hat I do like about my chaconne treatment, despite the fact that it keeps closing in on itself, is that once it begins mutating, it produces some deeply disturbing events. It is like some piece of kinetic sculpture or a clock that normally functions in a regular, predictable, reassuring, comforting manner, over and over again to the point where one is almost lulled to sleep. Then it suddenly begins to go awry, starts going into very strange modal areas, starts to experience arhythmia, begins to behave in a dreamlike, irrational manner. It becomes Salvador Dali's clock. What happens above the chaconne line, with all these figures whose rhythm is either augmented or diminished, causes a constant sense of overlapping and for me an interesting dissonance to this kind of clockwork ostinato.

Recently I've been giving thought to whether we should want to think (philosophically) with dance as a partner. When we think about pulsation should we want to allow for a choreography? A chora? Orchestrics: Body through which the dream flows. Balance those out.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 3:01 PM.


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