“Erratum Musical” – Marcel Duchamp [1913]

“Erratum Musical” was one of Duchamp’s few musical ideas (three pieces have survived), all of which dealt with chance operation. The manuscript for “Erratum Musical” describes an apparatus (a funnel and numbered balls) that generates pitches.

Musically, I think this piece says: “I don’t have much to say and I’m saying it!” My experience listening to it is pleasant. The rests between the notes reduce the impression of dissonance, and I find the absence of progress or musical structure calming. I used reduced listening to experience “Erratum Musical”, since there is little semantic content to randomly generated notes. Causal listening also doesn’t apply here, because the cause of the sounds is constant and recognizable (in this recording, a piano).

– Miles


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