Saturday, 9:00–10:30 am

Time and Timbre

Chair: Catherine Losada (College-Conservatory of Music, U. of Cincinnati)

  • Tension and Density in Luciano Berio’s Sequenza for Flute
    Eugena Riehl (Western University)
  • Rhythmic and Timbral Associations in Sufjan Stevens's "Come On, Feel the Illinoise"
    Megan Lavengood (CUNY Graduate Center)
  • Program

    Tension and Density in Luciano Berio’s Sequenza for Flute

    Valid analyses of Berio’s Sequenza for flute have been published by scholars using existing analytical methodologies, including performance practice (Folio and Brinkman, 2007), rhythm (Roeder, 1995), and pitch (Priore, 2007). However, Berio’s adoption of unconventional notation and seemingly unconventional use of motive to articulate form limit their insight into the Sequenza to only the conventional notions of instrumental music. I have created a method of analysis focusing on Berio’s unique style in the Sequenza for flute. Specifically, I combine Berio’s philosophies (Remembering the Future, 2006) and his comments to Rossana Dalmonte (Luciano Berio Two Interviews, 1985) to focus on four domains of music as described by Berio: temporal, dynamic, pitch, and morphology.

    Berio’s temporal domain involves the number of articulated notes within a time interval rather that any specific rhythmic values. Berio’s dynamic domain is determined by the number of dynamic changes and the degree of change. The pitch domain involves extremes in register and the width of leaps. Morphology, according to Berio, presents in unconventional methods of making sound on a flute. I will show that each of these four domains can be quantified according to maximum, neutral, and minimum levels of tension, as outlined by Berio, and their quantification can be interpreted as presenting specific motives that articulate a unique musical form. In addition, I will show that Berio’s description of density contributes to climactic events within the form.

    Sequenza’s proportional notation divides the piece into one-second time intervals by a small slash at the top of the staff. I group six one-second slash-spans together to form fifty groups of six seconds covering the entire five minute duration of the piece. I measure the tension of each of the four domains, according to Berio’s descriptions, and plot the tension level of each slash-span on a graph. From the fifty graphs, a pattern of peaks and valleys within the four domains emerges. The recurring patterns act motivically to determine musical form.


    Rhythmic and Timbral Associations in Sufjan Stevens’s “Come On, Feel the Illinoise!”

    The music of indie pop artist Sufjan Stevens is quickly recognizable through his use of lush textures created by using both electric instruments and acoustic orchestral instruments in Reichian counterpoint with one another, as well as his preference for asymmetrical meters. “Come On, Feel the Illinoise!”, from the album by the same name, is a representative example of Stevens’s output. The song is rather static harmonically, relying on the repetition of either a single chord or a four-chord pattern. Thus, more traditional harmony-based analytical techniques are not of interest when examining this music. Instead, Dora Hanninen’s associative sets and landscapes are a tool that elegantly relates the more salient elements of timbre and rhythm that lend this song its complexity.

    Prominent associative sets are defined primarily based on rhythmic associations, and relationships are drawn between them regarding their timbre, i.e., the instrument being played. After this process, the resultant sets are arranged into an associative landscape, which shows the organization of the sets in the temporal dimension. This demonstrates several things: firstly, the music is clearly divided into two largely unrelated sections; secondly, the first section conforms to verse-chorus design, while the second section is formally elusive; thirdly, the deployment of segments within a single subset varies depending on timbre, since the voice has different segments presented horizontally (through time), while the instrumental parts present segments vertically (between instruments). These facets are elucidated through the use of associative sets in a way that other methodologies may not capture.