Scambi (Exchanges) is an electronic music composition by the Belgian composer Henri Pousseur, realized in 1957 at the Studio di fonologia musicale di Radio Milano.
Scambi is Pousseur's second electronic-music work, following Seismogramme I–II (Seismograms I–II)—one of the seven works which had been presented in October 1954 on the first concert of full-scale compositions produced in the Electronic-Music Studio of the NWDR. Pousseur at this time had obligations as a schoolteacher in Malmedy and so could only come intermittently to work in the Cologne studio, where his friend Karlheinz Stockhausen helped carry out the technical realisation.His work on Scambi by contrast brought him into direct contact with the work of actually realising electronic music.
In the summer of 1956, at the Darmstädter Ferienkurse, Pousseur met Luciano Berio, who invited him to come to Milan to work at the Studio di fonologia musicale of Radio Milan. On his way to Milan on the train in the spring of 1957, Pousseur formulated two goals for his new work. First, he wanted to design the work in a way that permitted the listener to participate in its temporal formation, which meant it would be composed of a number of small elements which could be arranged in different ways. Second, it seemed necessary at that time to use material that avoided the periodic character of traditional music, including the internal structure of the sounds themselves. This meant starting from noise—white noise—and filtering it to produce a range of noisy sounds with different degrees of relative pitch. This came as an extension of the post-Webernian goal of exploring structures opposed to traditional ones, especially in the area of harmony, so that, in place of the concepts of polarity and causality of traditional musical thinking, "Es soll alles schweben" (everything should remain in suspension), as Webern put it.
A third factor preoccupied Pousseur: the time available to carry out the work was relatively short. Consequently, it was necessary to find relatively quick methods for the generation and formation of the material. This was an important factor in deciding on techniques that deviated from the microstructural devices accepted almost exclusively in electronic composition until the present time.
At the Studio di fonologia, Pousseur discovered a special filter designed by Dr Alfredo Lietti, the technical director of the studio. This device enabled selecting, by setting the filter's threshold, material from a complex sound phenomenon, or the opposite, progressively increasing the attenuation. In other words, various more or less dense "skimmed off" bandwidths can be isolated from the same stockpile of sounds. Studio technician Marino Zuccheri assisted Pousseur in compiling a supply of suitable sounds for his composition.
The starting-point for Scambi is a collection of sound material that is globally statistical. By means of devices that enable transformation techniques, elements are selected from electronically generated white noise. Various frequency bands were isolated, each with a bandwidth of half an octave, and from each of these a sequence is filtered using an amplitude selector. The output is randomly determined by whichever sounds happen to emerge above the filter’s threshold. These sequences, which already fluctuate in frequency around average values, are then made to centre on nine different pitch levels. On each one, a directed motion of change in density is imposed in which the direction is not linear, but rather travels in a spiral fashion. An acceleration machine is then used to give each sequence a rising or falling pitch tendency, within which the motion is not even, but is disturbed by small internal deviations in contrary directions. This material is then reduced to four basic structural types, each characterised by a double tendency: on the one hand, movement from high to low or from low to high, and on the other from fast to slow, or from slow to fast.
Rhythms, too, are intentionally irregular and unpredictable. Details of the music are therefore "imprecise". On the whole, only general motions are heard—general speeds or changes of speeds—with abrupt breaks occurring even within these tendencies.
A second structural level opposes this essentially discontinuous material with contrasting, long-sustained, continuous sounds, again in four types of shape. These two four-fold classes of structures are blended in various degrees to produce sixteen intermodulated structural types. Together with their retrogrades, a total of thirty-two sequences are generated: high-fast-discontinuous changing to high-slow-continuous, low-slow-discontinuous changing to low-fast-continuous, high -fast discontinuous changing to high-slow-discontinuous, and so on.
Once having produced these thirty-two sequences, Pousseur regarded the work as complete, though with an enormous number of possible realisations—an aleatory principle which had been intended from the outset.
Scambi is unusual for an electronic work in having a mobile structure. It consists of sixteen pairs of segments (called "layers" by Pousseur) that may be assembled in many different ways. Pousseur's original idea was to supply these layers on separate reels of tape, so that the listener could assemble his own version. When first created, several different versions were realized, two by Luciano Berio, one by Marc Wilkinson, and two by the composer himself—a longer one of about six-and-a-half minutes and a shorter one lasting just over four minutes. One of Berio's versions is shorter still at 3:25.Pousseur established two principles for linking the segments together. The first is that there should be as complete a conformity in character as possible between the end of one segment and the beginning of the next, with the objective of accomplishing transitions as imperceptible as possible. The second is that the formal course should be marked by the successive dominance of the different characters. The process of assembly was complicated by the fact that the sequences were not all the same length, but it was not required that all thirty-two segments necessarily appear in all versions. Though Pousseur followed these rules himself, he regarded them only as suggestions, and Berio and Wilkinson did not conform to them when making their versions. Berio's structures, for example, are marked by an even distribution of the various characters, while Wilkinson's connections emphasize effects of contrast.
Initially, Scambi was not met with universal acclaim, even within Pousseur's immediate circle of colleagues. Pierre Boulez attended a concert of electronic music from Milan, given at Darmstadt on 26 July 1957, in which two versions of Scambi were presented, along with Mutazione and Perspectives by Luciano Berio and Notturno by Bruno Maderna. In a letter to his friend Stockhausen, Boulez reported:
I also heard the electronic pieces from Milan. What a catastrophe. The one by Pousseur is absolutely zero, both in the choice of material and in its compositional structure. And then, the white noise at a high level and with glissandos, which might be used for sound effects of storms... and these sorts of vaguely aquatic gurglings, and worse (just like a toilet), I find it abominable!
In his influential early book Opera aperta, Umberto Eco, on the other hand, cites Scambi, together with Stockhausen's Klavierstück XI , Berio's Sequenza I , and Boulez's Third Piano Sonata, as musical exemplars of the "open work", alongside the literary models of Verlaine's Art Poétique, Kafka's The Trial and The Castle , and James Joyce's Ulysses and Finnegans Wake .For Eco, Scambi represents a "fresh advance" by pointing within the category of "open" works to a narrower category of "works in movement" consisting of "unplanned or physically incomplete structural units", related to products of visual art like Alexander Calder's mobiles and Mallarmé's Livre. It is evident from the vocabulary used by Eco that it is Pousseur's work that had the greatest impact on his thinking. Scambi was the first open-form work of electronic music—a mobile of electronic sounds.
Beginning in 2004, the Scambi Project, directed by John Dack at the Lansdown Centre for Electronic Arts at Middlesex University, has focussed on this work and its multiple possibilities for realization.
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In music, tape loops are loops of magnetic tape used to create repetitive, rhythmic musical patterns or dense layers of sound when played on a tape recorder. Originating in the 1940s with the work of Pierre Schaeffer, they were used among contemporary composers of 1950s and 1960s, such as Éliane Radigue, Steve Reich, Terry Riley, and Karlheinz Stockhausen, who used them to create phase patterns, rhythms, textures, and timbres. Popular music authors of 1960s and 1970s, particularly in psychedelic, progressive and ambient genres, used tape loops to accompany their music with innovative sound effects. In the 1980s, analog audio and tape loops with it gave way to digital audio and application of computers to generate and process sound.
Gesang der Jünglinge is an electronic music work by Karlheinz Stockhausen. It was realized in 1955–56 at the Westdeutscher Rundfunk studio in Cologne and is Work Number 8 in the composer's catalog of works. The vocal parts were supplied by 12-year-old Josef Protschka. It is exactly 13 minutes, 14 seconds long.
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Henri Pousseur was a Belgian classical composer, teacher, and music theorist.
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Hymnen is an electronic and concrete work, with optional live performers, by Karlheinz Stockhausen, composed in 1966–67, and elaborated in 1969. In the composer's catalog of works, it is Nr. 22.
Zeitmaße is a chamber-music work for five woodwinds composed in 1955–1956 by German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen; it is Number 5 in the composer's catalog. It is the first of three wind quintets written by Stockhausen, followed by Adieu für Wolfgang Sebastian Meyer (1966) and the Rotary Wind Quintet (1997), but is scored with cor anglais instead of the usual French horn of the standard quintet. Its title refers to the different ways that musical time is treated in the composition.
Studie II is an electronic music composition by Karlheinz Stockhausen from the year 1954 and, together with his Studie I, comprises his work number ("opus") 3. It is serially organized on all musical levels and was the first published score of electronic music.
Studie I is an electronic music composition by Karlheinz Stockhausen from the year 1953. It lasts 9 minutes 42 seconds and, together with his Studie II, comprises his work number ("opus") 3.
The Konkrete Etüde is the earliest work of electroacoustic tape music by Karlheinz Stockhausen, composed in 1952 and lasting just three-and-a-quarter minutes. The composer retrospectively gave it the number "1⁄5" in his catalogue of works.
Nummer 5 met zuivere tonen is a musical work by the Belgian composer Karel Goeyvaerts, realized at the WDR Studio for Electronic Music in 1953 and one of the earliest pieces of electronic music.
Thema is an electroacoustic composition by Luciano Berio, for voice and tape. Composed between 1958 and 1959, it is based on the interpretative reading of the poem "Sirens" from chapter 11 of the novel Ulysses by James Joyce by Cathy Berberian and on the elaboration of her recorded voice by technological means.
A Garland for Dr. K. is a set of eleven short compositions created in 1969 for the celebration of the eightieth birthday of Dr Alfred Kalmus, the director of the London branch of Universal Edition. It is also the title of an album containing these eleven pieces of music, recorded in 1976.
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Luciano Berio, Cavaliere di Gran Croce OMRI was an Italian composer. He is noted for his experimental work and also for his pioneering work in electronic music. His early work was influenced by Igor Stravinsky and experiments with serial and electronic techniques, while his later works explore indeterminacy and the use of spoken texts as the basic material for composition.
Votre Faust is an opera in two acts by the Belgian composer Henri Pousseur, for five actors, four singers, twelve instrumentalists, and tape. The text is by the French author Michel Butor. Originally written between 1960 and 1968, it was premiered on 15 January 1969 at the Piccola Scala in Milan, and revised in 1981. Although about seven hours of performable material exists, the variable structure does not permit use of it all in a single version, and performances to date have been between three and three-and-a-half hours.