Sunday, 11:00 am–12:30 pm
Orthography in the Music of Nicolai Roslavets
The music of Nicolai Roslavets (1881–1944), long repressed in the Soviet Union, has recently begun to attract the attention of musicologists and theorists. Kholopov 1981, Perle 1991, Ferenc 1993, and Sitsky 1994 are useful accounts of Roslavets’s music, but none explains his idiosyncratic orthography. I will show that Roslavets’s orthography, which often features such peculiarities as triple sharps, operates on a deeper structure of fifth-relations and helps us to understand his unique compositional system.
Roslavets uses synthetic chords, scale-like groups of notes that recur at various transpositional levels. The transpositions of these chords—for instance, those of the sc(0134578) at the start of “Pianissimo” (1914)—can be represented by means of quint or perfect-fifth distances (Qn), illustrated by means of a line of fifths on which octave equivalence, but not enharmonic equivalence, is assumed. From the resultant transformations emerges a path that not only outlines inversional symmetry but also accounts for the unique spellings of chords. Roslavets’s extreme orthography results from this underlying structure in fifths: moving to the right on the line produces sharp-dominated spellings, while moving to the left produces flat-dominated spellings.
I use Trois Compositions (1914), “Pianissimo” (1914), and Cinq Préludes (1922) to show that Qn relations shape the deeper structure of Roslavets’s music in a way that ultimately explains his unique orthography.
Asymmetrical Meters in Bulgarian Music: Hypermeter, Combined Metric Groups, Hetermetric Rows, and Megameters
The music of Bulgaria is an excellent example of a complex musical tradition which combines Middle Eastern makams (modes), regional microtonal structures, pentatonic scales, diatonic modes, and major/minor collections. Asymmetrical meters represent another essential characteristic of Bulgarian music. They exist in immense variety, from 5/8 to 15/8, and occur in various combinations with simple and compound meters. Over the centuries, Bulgarians have explored a huge variety of uneven groupings of twos and threes, combined metric groups (several asymmetrical meters recurring periodically), and heterometric rows (meters that do not follow any particular pattern). This paper traces some of the primary characteristics of asymmetrical meters found in Bulgarian music. It analyzes the perception of hypermeter, syncopations, and accent placement, as well as interactive metric transformations that lead to the creation of polymeter or asymmetrical megameters. The paper summarizes existing Bulgarian terminology and adapts it to the current vocabulary of Western music theory. The concepts addressed in this study provide a foundation for in-depth understanding of complex asymmetrical meters and may serve as a starting point for future metric and rhythmic analyses of Western and non-Western repertoires involving asymmetrical meters.