“A Historical Portrait” – Final sound collage proposal

Fundamentally, and given that I was previously a teacher, my interest in music has always been rooted firmly in both understanding and elucidating. As such, thanks to a helpful tip from Abby, I decided to pursue a collage of the most notable repertoire of the violin throughout history—both solo and ensemble work—with a particular focus on major musical paradigms and technical advancements in performance. In a similar vein to the skits of the performing duo Igudesman and Joo and the “bastard pop” of Osymyso, I want to present a mashup of all the “greatest hits” of the violin world that would, ideally, be recognizable and should show evolution over time of advancements in performance and musical language.

(As a caveat, prior to listing my influences, I would like to clarify that I am not looking to mashup works to any sort of comedic effect. While two of the works listed are intended as humorous skits, I am more interested in them from a structural perspective than a wholly conceptual one.)

My first major influence is Riverdance, by Aleksey Igudesman and Richard Hyung-ki Joo. While this is a comedy routine performed often, I always liked the way Igudesman strings together many famous solos from the violin world in a way that, while often jarring, allows for the listener to enjoy a nugget of a theme from a famous work in time. It is particularly effective given the way he has transposed some works so as to elide from one theme to the other in a smoother manner. My second influence is the Evolution of Dance, by Judson Laipply. Again, though this is meant in a humorous light, Laipply creates an effective demonstation of popular trends in dance since the mid 20th century into the start of the new millenium. I very much enjoy the way he shows the eponymous evolution though the actual transitions are very sudden and rarely smooth. I believe that he gets away with sudden transitions due to the recognizability of the themes and samples. The listener is more interested in placing the theme in both a popular context and point in time than how he moved into the theme. This desire to “identify” the next theme becomes greater and greater as the work progresses because the listener is more likely to be familiar with the music presented near the end than near the beginning. My third influence is Intro-Inspection by the British DJ and “bastard pop” artist Mark Nicholson, better known as Osymso. This work presents only the hooks and intros of pop music from a large span of time, grouped in such a way as to start with the slowest of tempi all the way to the very fastest songs at the end. Unlike the previous skit, Nicholson creates masterful transitions by tying the work together via the actual speed of the samples. While he is not as interested in demonstrating changes over time, the listener is still primarily focused with placing a popular context on the samples as they become aware of them. This is particularly successful given how, the hook of a song is identifiable and recognizable.

I would hope that the work is interesting from an educational perspective as, depending on the musical background of the listener, the change over time of styles and techniques may be more or less evident. The music of Vivaldi is dramatically different from the music of Pagannini and the goal is to trace that development and see how one gets from point A to point B. To that end, I hope to find 100 sound samples of violinists performing landmark literature from the very genesis of the canon in the late 15th century to the very pinnacle of the art in the early 20th century. While it is not impossible to find samples that all acheive a fully historical performance, particularly of older works on older instruments, I will try to capture the essence of the time period presented in each sample so as to fully represent that context. As I am covering over 500 years, I would like to have 25 samples per time period, though there will be overlap and some works will bridge musical paradigms. Though I am not fully certain as to how best to transition between samples, I will try to imitate the styles of the inspiration works so as to smooth over changes as much as possible. I may group some works into similar key centers or textures to limit the jarring effect created. I can also section my samples into full phrases to avoid interrupting or anticipating the end of a musical sentence.

The work is wholly centered around change over time and the characterization of historical context.  Ideally, I would like to demonstrate evolution from the very late Renaissance (late 1500s – 1600) -> Baroque (1600 – 1760) -> Classical (1730 – 1820) -> Romantic (1815 – 1910) -> Modern (1900 – 2000). Each sample should embody the language and identity of the group wherein it is placed. It is not possible to use samples that will always be as recognizable as many of the skit works, but I would hope that some things will come out to the listener as tunes that they have heard previously. I am also looking to create meaning in the mind of the listener by depicting contrasts over time: homogeniety versus heterogeniety in ensembles, tonality versus atonality / diatonic versus chromatic in musical content, rigidity versus fluidity in structure, simplistic versus virtuosic in performance, and whether or not there is a variety of performance techniques employed. Once the work is finished, I would hope that the listener can better understand the evolution of the instrument within Western classical music and appreciate the progression of its performance and compositional history.

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One thought on ““A Historical Portrait” – Final sound collage proposal

  1. Hi Jorge,

    Glad this idea was helpful! I’m excited to hear the excerpts you choose, and how you weave them together into something new. I’d definitely consider varying the length and other characteristics…and while I like the idea of grouping items together by key/etc, to avoid a jarring experience, I’d encourage you to explore all sorts of transitions between samples. As I know you’re aware, jarring can work well under the right circumstances.

    I like this idea as a piece in its own right–fixed and without any explicit listener interaction. If, however, in the future, you wanted to experiment with ways of making the timeline more tangible, you could experiment with listener control. For example: have a timeline laid out in Max, and have it control the samples being chosen. Perhaps the cursor is traveling at a fixed speed, but the listener can drag/scroll/FFW/RW etc.? (I actually think this idea that I’ve just laid out is a bit literal, and so not my favorite…but thought I’d mention in case it sparks some other ideas for you for future iterations.)

    -Abby

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