[Smt-talk] Carl Vine's First Piano Sonata

Murphy, Scott Brandon smurphy at ku.edu
Thu Oct 24 12:16:11 PDT 2013

You may be like this, too: tucked away, I have a little folder in which I store little analytical observations that, 1) in of themselves, seem not substantial enough to exclusively constitute the subject of a publishable piece, given the sizes of publication containers that appear to be currently available, 2) are enough different from what I typically do that I probably won't amass more similar observations to reach a publishable critical mass anytime soon (or, in some cases, within my lifetime), and 3) are interesting enough and, as best as I know or can guess, non-duplicative of current research that, despite instincts that insist I hoard them all, I think other scholars, even if just one other, in my discipline might appreciate knowing about them, and perhaps use them for greater gains. Of course, for any observation, I may be wrong on any or all of these three counts.

Here's a recent addition to that folder.

Australian composer Carl Vine's Piano Sonata from 1990 begins with the pianist silently depressing A0, C1, E1, G1, and B1 and keeping them undamped with the sostenuto pedal for the first 12 measures. In a very short preface, the composer tells the performer that the tempo markings are "not suggestions but indications of absolute speed." The first 103 measures of the work, before a "poco allargando" in m. 104 and "Poco meno" tempo change involving a factor of 11 in m. 105, establish various isochronous pulses with wavelengths slower than 250 ms. These pulses group into exactly five "tempo classes" by equivalence of 2:1 ratios. If the first "tempo class" in the work is represented as 1, then the other four tempo classes can be represented as 1.2, 1.5, 1.8, and 2.25.  If the frequency of the pitch class A is represented as 1, then the other four pitch-class frequencies in the opening "silent" chord can be represented in just intonation as 1.2, 1.5, 1.8, and 2.25. (Such an analogy could also be demonstrated using the method Lewin used in GMIT to analyze a passage from Carter's First String Quintet.)



Scott Murphy
Associate Professor, Music Theory
Director, Music Theory and Composition Division
University of Kansas School of Music
smurphy at ku.edu

P.S. Happy conferencing next week. I wish I were there.
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