Harmonic Canon


A CHRONICLE

 

OF THE

  

AMERICAN EXPERIMENTAL ARTS

 TRADITION

A PUBLICATION

 

OF

 

GREYWOLF ARTS INSTITUTE

 

 

 

NEW ARTICLE


If We Could Write for the Symphony, or, We Are All Mozart
Dennis Báthory-Kitsz


What, you say? There are no living Mozarts? So the wisdom goes. But the wisdom is wrong. There are Mozarts. There are thousands of Mozarts. We are all Mozart, or might be.

If we aren’t, it’s not because we’re creatively empty shells. Rather, it’s that we composers don’t have an opportunity to be Mozart—a requirement to be Mozart.

Indeed, none of us (absolutely none of us!) has the chance to “be Bach” or “be Mozart” because we’re not writing new tunes every day, most of the day—even if we could find the time as fully dedicated composers.

[ click here to read entire article (pdf 440kb)]


Click here for Vox Organalis score by James Drew

 

The American Experimental Arts Tradition has from the beginning been the most original and vital force in our nation’s creative accomplishments. Beginning in the 20th Century, the American Experimentalists have created some of the most powerful and original works in the world.  Now, looking back over the recent decades, it has become well documented that it was mainly our country’s Experimental Tradition that has truly had a profound influence on the artists of both Europe and the Pacific Rim.  Interestingly enough, it should also be pointed out that eastern thought underlined much of the Experimentalist’s philosophies.

 

Several ingredients went into creating our Experimental Tradition. First and foremost, was a passion for invention and a strong sense of individual visions. The Experimentalists did not advocate “schools” of artistic collectivism as found in the European influenced academic world, but followed instead a kind of isolated radical thinking that was fueled by both eastern and western sources.

 

Although our American Experimental composers, painters, choreographers, etc. have carefully studied and absorbed the works of the great European masters (the entire history), and of course the eastern sources, to be sure, it is the American concept of “inclusion” of many kinds of materials, simultaneously, that would mark the character of a new kind of artistic thinking emerging in the early 20th Century.

 

Furthermore, it must be clearly pointed out that many of the so-called experimentalists represent a new classical tradition and that they are closely connected, both formally and aesthetically, to ancient traditions, where sacred intent must traditionally aspire to the high art of classicism.

 

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The HARMONIC CANON was founded by American composer/ playwright, James Drew, in the late 1990’s, and is dedicated to documenting the American Experimental Arts Tradition.

 

The Canon is both a chronicle and a forum in which experimental artists can voice their ideas in the form of writings and interviews.

                 

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The American Experimentalists

A CHRONOLOGICAL OVERVIEW

(A Partial List, from 1900 to the present)

 

 

Experimentalists

 

 

I

 

 

 

 

 
Charles Ives                    

 

 

Poly-everything

Superimpositions

Sound masses

High/low art music

Spatial distribution

Tonal/atonal mix

 

 

Charles Seeger

 

 

Primitive studies

Electronics

Graphic notation

 

Henry Cowell

 

 

Tone clusters

New sound sources

Fractional tones

Exotic materials

 

Edgar Varese  

 

 
Sound masses

Percussion

Electronics

 

Carl Ruggles

 

 

Sound masses

21-tone scale

Oblique sounds

 

Wallingford Riegger

 

Innovative melodic structures

Consonance/dissonance mix

 

 

 

 

 

 

Experimentalists

 

 

II

 

 

 

 

Harry Partch

 

 
Building new instruments

43-tone scale

High/low art music

Theatre

 

Conlon Nancarrow

 

Rhythm studies

Piano roll music

High/low art music

 

 

Henry Brant

 

 
Polyphony of tempi

Spatial logistics

 

 

 

Colin McPhee

 
 
Exotic percussion

Balinese influences

 

 


 

 

Experimentalists

 

III

 

 

 

 

 

John Cage 

 

 
Eastern influences

Percussion

Prepared piano

Objects as instruments

Indeterminacy

 

 

Morton Feldman

 

 
Form by density and dynamics

Graphic notations

                                                                      

 

Earle Brown

 

 
Fixed details/open form

Large sound complexes

 

 

Lou Harrison

 

 

Tunings                       

Exotic percussions

Eastern influence

 

 

 

Christian Wolff

 

Composition as actions

 

Merce Cunningham

 

 

New dance

New contexts

 

Louise Nevelson

 

 

Controlled fragments

Box constructions

 

 

Jackson Pollack

 

Action painting

Conflicting fields

Massive fields of colour and texture

 

 

Franz Kline

 

 

Abstractions

Large advancing shapes

 

Robert Rauschenberg

 

Collage process

Print process

Found object constructions

 

Joseph Cornell

 

 

Mystery boxes

Controlled fragments

Experimental films

 

 

Allan Kaprow

 

 

Environments/happenings

Assemblages moving in space

 

 

Phillip Gustin

 

 

Abstraction processes

Pre-Pop figurations in extremis

 

 

Mark Rothko

 

 

Abstract Expressionist

Colour masses

 

Barnett Newman

 

Abstractions

Reduction processes

Color fields

 

Experimentalists

 

 

IV

 

 

 

 

Donald Martino

 

 

Innovative notations

Jazz influences

Theatre

 

 

Mel Powell

 

 

Electronics

Sound masses

Jazz influences

 

James Drew

 

 

New theatre,  opera, ballet forms

Combination tones

High/low art music

Exotic percussion

 

 

Robert Ashley

 

New theatre concepts

High/low art music

Electronics/video

 

Robert Sheff

 

 
Spoken word

High/low art music

 

Gordon Mumma

 

 

Electronics/dance

 

 

Steve Reich

 

 

 

Percussion

Ethnic/jazz sources

Repetition processes

 

 

Bertram Turetzky

 

Improvisation

High/low art music

Music as action

Spoken word

 

 

Philip Krumm

 

Electronics
Poets/theatre
                

 

LaMonte Young

 

Static Loops

Theatre

 

George Brecht

 

 

 

Text as music

Suspense poems

 

 

Pauline Oliveros

 

 

 

Drones

Accordions

Music of formants

 

 

 

Lucia Dlugoszewski

 

 

Timbre piano

Ladder harps

Music for dance

 

Orlando Jacinto Garcia

 

Exotic orchestration

Latin American influences

 

 

Kenneth Gaburo

 

 

Electronics

Text language

 

Paul Dresher

 

 

Electronics

Theatre

High/low art music

 

 

 

Humphrey Evans III

 

Orchestra innovations

Notational developments

 

Robert Dick

 

 

Multi-layered sound-spaces

Microtonal developments

Electronic/video

Invents new instruments

 

 

Lin Emery

 

 

Mechanized puppets

Metals dancers

Kinetic abstractions

 

Roger Cooke

 

 

Extensive improvisation

Expanded colouristics

High/low art

George Crumb

Explorer of color
development of
music notations
exotic instruments
developments in
rhythmic procedures.

George Rochberg

Music notation
experiments
mixing older tonal
styles with modern
developments.

     

 

 

                                                           

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The Harmonic Canon
Forum

                                       

NOTES FROM THE UNDERGROUND

 

                                                            -- Jacopo Drew    

 

During the last 20 years my music has developed into a process of parallel constructions.  This is particularly true of my theatre music where the

parallel process is much more obvious, because it involves three distinct forces.

 

First of all, the music, which exists mostly parallel to the drama, nevertheless compliments the over-all shape of what is happening on stage.  In other words, the actor’s dialogue progresses in a series of open forms in contrast to the music, which is revealed in a series of closed forms.  These alternating or superimposed constructions make possible both a parallel process and a synthesis.

 

The formal thinking here is similar to the Stravinsky/Balanchine or Cage/Cunningham ballets, but differs drastically because I include dialogue. I want to add, however, that not ALL of my theatre music follows the parallel process – my ballet, GIGGLES, for example, is unabashedly program music.  Music singing to feet.

                  

I learned most about theatre from my mentors: John Cage,

who first pointed out to me, that I WAS doing theatre;

Mark Rothko, who taught me that the Holy in Art was abstract;

de Chirico, who created EMPTY PLAZA THEATRES;

Richard (Lord) Buckley, who saw that theatre spaces existed EVERYWHERE; Wallingford Riegger, who instructed me about the obligation required of classicism.

 

 

 

In my operatheater works, I employ a sub-harmonic process by which

to guide the singers, because they have very FEW notated pitches.

Basically, this is a gravitational process.  There is ALWAYS an accompaniment of guiding pitches available to the singers which allows them to naturally and freely select pitches to gravitate to within the harmonic framework of whatever music is sounding at the exact moment.  The singers are ACOUSTICALLY drawn to their “guides.”  Yaaaa, Pythagoras!

 

                    FINDING THEIR  “OWN” pitches is always an EMOTIONALLY

                    DRAMATIC decision. It is much different than following a notated

                    map. I believe this process results in approaching a SACRED 

                    THEATRE. 

                     IT IS THE ACTOR’S REACTION TO THE

                RITUAL, NOT ACTED.

 

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Call for Contributions

 

Experimental artists worldwide are invited to contribute both current and historical information to the Harmonic Canon in the form of articles, interviews, and photographs. For submission information, please email jacopodrew@greywolf-artistry.com.