Tanmatras: The Life and Work of Giacinto Scelsi Author(s): Robin Freeman and Giacinto Scelsi Source: Tempo

, New Series, No. 176 (Mar., 1991), pp. 8-18 Published by: Cambridge University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/944639 Accessed: 18/08/2009 07:58
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of what would be going on long after. Nevertheless. pioneer. the first I2-tone piece by an Italian. last Count of Dayala Valva and one of the most extraordinarycomposers of this century. Few of us cared to violate these rules. told them he was crossing the street to buy a packet of cigarettesand did so.his father. But Scelsi's interest in musical radicalism did not stop with the Futurists. Scelsi said: crollail castello. while awaiting further information on Walter Stein. holding the little boy by the hand . always in the air or at sea. he used to say. pioneer of aviationin a country that took it seriously.I have a recollection of Scelsi's having said 'Walter'. doing ironic and at times testy battle with the world and old age.crollail padrone. he explainedthatit was only when thus self-absorbed that his mother could comb his hair. In the only snippet of officialbiography Scelsi says that he passed his childhood in the castle of Valva where he studiedLatin. Scelsi's father walked up to the soldiers. the Editor of Tempohas suggested to me that the Stein in question might be Fritz Heinrich. did his best to avoid programme notes. He attended the futurist concerts organized by Russolo and his circle in Rome. He sought something like this in his music as well. however privileged the task. as a result. based as it was on the tempered scale and veering already towards neo-classicism. first performed under Pierre Monteux in Paris in I93 I.fencing and chess. herself a pianist and composer. a student of both Schoenberg and Berg and the man who prepared the vocal score of Wozzeck. And second because a man who consented to do the vocal score of Wozzeck. wind instruments and percussion. During his lifetime Scelsi refused to be photographed. What he doesn't tell us is that from a very early age he spent much of the day improvising at the piano. and gave information about his life only when he chose to forget himself in conversation. adventurer of another kind . One day they went walking on Via Nazionale in Ronmewhen the street was cordoned off for an official visit.. an airforcepilot. . didn't understandhis strange son. the German musicologist. Stein') .a little boy who. there in his overheated house across from the Roman Forum.RobinFreeman Tanmatras:The Life and Work ofGiacinto Scelsi Giacinto Scelsi. grown up.The castle falls to bits and so does its master. With such a view. 'In view of the fact that there seems no proof that Walter Stein (activein Vienna from I9oo) actuallystudied with Schoenberg. Those of us who knew him in his last years remember above all the frailfigure sitting on a couch below the two portraitsthat Dali had given the Eluards for a wedding present. thinking that warmth could do him of only good. His father. knowing that for a man who had dictated of the memoires his future life they representeda kind of defence against a finality imposed from without. hoping it would seem only a snatch of what had been going on long before. the idea is worth entertaining.'died in Rome on 9 August I988 at the age of 85 in the Policlinico Gemelli after an attack brought on by the sweltering Roman summer: he who never went to the mountains to avoid it. But an abstractapproachto composition. He went on to study briefly in Vienna with Walter Klein. Elsa San Giacomo. where he was entranced by the conversation of Respighi's wife. To Heinz-Klaus Metzger. could not interest him long. First because Scelsi was much more interested in the music of Berg than that of Schoenberg: in fact one of his few pieces with a dedication is an elegy on the death of Berg.which I hadn't read at that time. There are traces of this early enthusiasm in his ballet Rotative(= printing presses) for 3 pianos. independent of Claudio Annibaldi's New Grove Scelsi article (naming 'W.. saying later they had an excitement and novelty about them he never rediscovered. what one does must be quite splendid or else a very bad joke. Scelsi's formal training was scanty. an obscure follower of Schoenberg1 . which flattenedthe mediaevalhill town of Valva and with it the family castle and its library.. rarely at home and then always with a different lady friend. After the Naples earthquake I980. would walk into the Rome opera house without a ticket and have an usher take him to a seat.composing. He frequented the house ofOttorino Respighi. might well have had time for an eccentric foreign student who lacked formal preparation.

of apartmentfrom andguests view of theRomanForum across way. in Paris. In I950.He also began to traveloutside Europe. apart from the childhood anecdotes and the music itself. and in 1937 he organized a series of concerts of contemporary music in Rome. a Suite for piano (No. For me. As it was he had had years of solitude in which to meditate and work. Scelsi lay on the floor of the men's loo during the performance. and the piece. He wrote two pieces for her. the piano. A performance scheduled a week later in London with the BBC Symphony Orchestra was cancelled when Desormiere unexpectedly died. and that reconstruction will not be easy since the handful of people who were close to him then .are no longer here to ask about him. worldly life and pursued his interestin surrealismand the esoteric. above all in India and Tibet. Roger Desormiere performed Scelsi's last ecole de Paris work. since that is where he chose to begin it. writing mostly for his own instrument. called I capricci Ty. It is there for the biographer to reconstruct. Of this period I know little since Scelsi seldom spoke of it in detail. and how she took the first train for the channel after the ceasefire never to see. Not that it came easily. how as the war dragged on his British wife grew to detest life abroad - particularly with an Italian who. Elegiaper Ty. after they were separatedbut as far as I know before her death. Scelsi's story begins in the I940s. imperiously ordering out the theatre personnel who had found him there.2 His life would have been different if that hadn't happened. He didn't know if things would have been better for him or if he would have written his music in the same way. and only came out into the hall once more when the applause had begun. he spoke to me about his life with an openess that was not to recur. Musically he continued to develop under the double influence of Scriabin and Berg. however.for chorus du and orchestra. in collaboration with Petrassi. when they were together di and a duo for viola and 'cello from I966. in spite of my own efforts and those of others. How he had taken refuge in Lausanneduring the war. (photo:RobinFreeman) the Scelsi then went to Paris and London where he led a brilliant.Viadi San Teodoro showingthebalcony Scelsi'sprivate whichhewouldshowfriends his 8.Igor Markevitch. next to the piano with a carved Sicilian angel on it. His pet name for her was Ty. . La naissance verbe. was never to be performed again during the composer's lifetime. according to her. He wouldn't have been alone.Tanmatras: Life and Workof GiacintoScelsi The 9 CasaScelsi. At the tablewhere he took his meals. Pierre-Jean Jouve. how he had helpedJouve escapethere from a Nazi-occupied Paris through the ruse that Jouve's wife needed psychoanalytic treatment that only the wife of the Chinese ambassadorin Geneva could provide.6) from 1938-9. Henri Michaux . hear or write to him again. I had been sent to visit him one chilly winter evening with an electric fire he needed because the heating had broken down. could not help but be the accomplice of an enemy regime. La naissance verbe(1948) has a wordless phonetic du text set to melodic lines of an impassive austerity which look forward to Scelsi's music of the 2Scelsi'swife's name was Dorothy.

For all I know such music. and the more honest. when one thinks that Scelsi deliberatelyfalsifiedthe dates of composition of at least some of his scores in the usual attempt to efface anything like a normal biography.a date of crucialimportance. Guenon insisting that the traditions Ossendowsky wrote of could be reconciledwith catholicmysticism to the benefit of European spiritual renewal.Goethe. unveiled in I953 in Lausanne at what one imagines as a musical equivalent to Mr.called to Scelsi's attention by Markevitch or by one of his surrealist friends. where serenity is achieved by the balancingof tensions. and indeed the composers who called themselves his followers never got beyond a greeting cardidea of cosmic harmony.rhythmic vibrations pulsatelike those that shapemountains. of course. that ear which Schoenberg called 'ein Musikers ganzer Verstand'. based on the negation of conflict. His quest for the hidden aspects of sound lay as it were with the naked ear. and with it something that will not reoccur in the later music: passages of bleak relentless counterpoint. about Rudolf Steiner's idea that music could be written on a single note. preferredZelter's bland settings of his lyrics to Beethoven's. the neothomist philosopher. after all. Steiner was not a musician.once ordering quantities of it out of a studio where he had gone to supervise a recording of his music. This is the Scelsi whom L' Itine'raire taken as fairy godfather. might have been more pleasing to Steiner himself than Scelsi's.Dieu that was discussed at the press conference. Of even greaterimportance was Scelsi's own idea about the three-dimensionality of sound. the Church should keep Her distance from them and not attempt a synthesis. hommes. a sort will of surrealistSymphonie despsaumes. thereare sound waves similarto the ether the waveswhichsurround universe. Whistler's 'Ten O'Clock'. surprise whatever audience has the first chance to hearit after the premiere over 40 years ago.' Not so different. is witness primarily to its own uniqueness and not a step along the way to what somebody else had in mind . Even so there is a major difference in aesthetic outlook between Scelsi and the high-tech world of musique spectrale. The young Scelsi took the side of Guenon (and that of his Italian disciple Julius Evola. There is little doubt that this piece. there is the suggestive power of Russian futurist thought about art . whilst Maritain warned that however fascinatingand venerable these traditions might be. Salabert have in the meantime prepared a performing score. Or from 'the Mlayan city' of Scelsi's choral-orchestral piece Uaxuctum which destroyed itself'for religious reasons'. I have heard the primitive recording Scelsi made by placing whatever was then availablenext to a table radio. There. Presumably it will also be possible one day to discoverjust when Scelsi spent a period in a rest home after a sort of breakdown. if there is meant to be any. seeing in him a precursor of the spectral analysis of sound. He knew. It was his book Betes. like that of all important composers. They must have had some deep spiritual reason for failing to do so. he had spent time in Tibet. and the air around him which caused it to resonate. Hence the importance for him of ritual prayers and dances with their element of hypnotic repetition. pervaded doubtless as well by oriental speculative mysticism. Ossendowsky had escaped from the Bolshevik regime not throughcentralEurope but through Indiaand. Even when most esotericists had given up their ideas about the Dalai Lama and his monks in the aftermath of the Chinese invasion Scelsi was able to say: 'Of course the Tibetan monks had the power to repelor even destroy the Chinese invaders. he always said. author of a book on tantrism). In Paris in 1924 a press conference was held by the Russian traveller and exile Fernand Ossendowsky together with the esotericistRene Guenon and Jacques Maritain.eventually going to Nepal and India (if not Tibet) to see and hear for himself. sounds as Rilke thought to hear it: Ein jeder Engel ist schrecklich. from Christ binding himself over to his accusers of his own free will.a fact insisted on by PascalDusapin after Tristan Murail's lecture at the 1987Royaumont Scelsi congress.The 10 Tanmatras: Lifeand Work GiacintoScelsi of I950s. his laboratory equipped only with the mechanism of the single piano key he kept playing. Finally. . There he had 'discovered' tantric Buddhism and arrived in Paris full of accounts of the survival of ancient religious teachings going back to the origins of mankind. The simpler the better. perhaps. Of course Scelsi's music. and finally in published under the title Son et musique Rome has in 1981. on the way. There is an extraordinary passageat the end ofAlexandr Blok's lecture on the 84th anniversaryof the death of Pushkin: wheremanis manno of Intheinfinite depths thespirit to longer. as a result of which his. But there was more than Steiner at work in Scelsi's imagination.' where the angelic voice. improvisations were reduced to the constant repetition of a single note . Scelsi had little use for machinery . if I am not mistaken.in those depthsinaccessible the state and society.

We are on our way to Eastern evolution of musical style.. Morton primeval chaos and to draw from it a harmony Feldman. This explains as well Scelsi's place in the 'bells' above it. Ttai (1953). wisecracks.Such strategic than middle C are a kind of ornamental efflorescene or . which seems These words apply more to the music of Scelsi to me the jumping-off point (however much than to any other. soon (if my chronology is right). even chance to establish themselves.I) all notes other chargedto the point of saturation. an antique flute. taken apart from what we know of Scelsi's theory. reborn from the spiritual about them. His work. it happened something like this.Tanmatras: Life and Work GiacintoScelsi 11 The of The first of these developments can already be seen in the music for piano.while its became the manifold projectionof a single note. such (1) Repeatedpatterns as the still Scriabinesque * * * one at the beginning of the first movement. Here the which are in reality one and the same direction writing.the moreprolonged harmonious just onenote?' Dear Morty. The bell drone effect is made 'anecdotal'by the peal of smaller music.All secondary melody played on the aulos. and the gradual introduction of microtonal inflections as the principal means to that is close to that of the opening two bars of Gerhard's Second String Quartet. 'D)as Enscimble der Soli'.3therearethreemain types of repetition. where microtones were introduced into a musical language already viola Coelacanth. Sonata). this process is complete in its earliest the tampering that went on in the margins of stage . I would like to have the will be thatwhichcomesforth.are an aura or history ions of the early baroque. In fact the layout. Ka That is what distinguishes his work from all (1954). like the Italian classical. of which there is a good is of harmony. The bold harmonic progress. I use the word 'inflection' since Scelsi'smicrotonalityalways has a linearmelodic go on to other notes and other textures. Theory meant literally nothing they decay still have something of the ostinato to him.doubtless have preferred . doubled and extended downwards. winds. Both pieces projection. In this way the microtones are much harder to intone though 3HaIns Rudolf Zcllcr. structuraleffect. Konzepte31: GiacintoScelsi(edition tcxt+kritik. humanear. (2) Repeated notessuch as that at du conflagration that followed La naissance verbe the beginning of the second movement. the more painfulthe 'How on earth did he get from all thosenotes to and birthof sound. a amounts to a deconstructing of the harmonic potentialof intervalrelationships. in Musikon winds than on strings. introduced by emanation of it. if you like. since at the time I didn't know either. what there Repeated chords. This perhaps explains why the first pieces on polarities are contradicted before they have the the new path are for wind instruments.the stage that produced the seven solos for wind instruments and the piece for solo chromatic atonality. even if the eventual point of arrival lies far beyond it. to be simplified.was attractedby a vision of ancient sign of having been arrived at intuitively. 1983). more even than to that great single notes come unstuck in the earlierpieces explosion. Greek music. proximate to them in time: Le Sacre v. Within the ambitus of an Monteverdi and his contemporaries. Zeller's analysis of the 1939 Second Piano duprintemps. for he was the firstto ritual gongs. . of intervallic structure in his example in the third movement. (3) identity which generates. which shows every madrigalists. By the first movement of the Tenth Suite.theclearer formit will take.. adding to his endless series of that can be vouchsafed to other men.the animaland vegetable worlds. said after a recital of Scelsi's piano The moreveils arestripped away.With him it was the aulodia. have got as far perhaps as a see that in order to unleashthe expressive power ofmicrotones the other musical parametershad Byzantine church in European Turkey.to use words that Scelsi would simplifications have occurred before in the of music. took two directions.resembles that of Elliott Carter's the simplification of the melodic line until it one-note etude for wind quartet . in It is the duty of the poet to commune with this Scelsi'sinstrumentaland vocal writing. in spite of the octave doubling.Here (Ex. the more insistentlyit will speakto the been able to say. marinecurrents. replaced octave (plus an all important B below middle C) the polyphonic structures of Palestrina and Scelsi disposes the total (keyboard) chromatic Victoria with something altogether simpler and in a figuration that looks deceptively neomore homophonic. Scelsi.the morecharged music at the Darmstadt Ferienkiirse in 1986: the communionwith chaos. In the Ninth Suite. It is easy to see that Scelsiwas more a visionary which no matter how much and how quickly than a theorist.

.... Messiaen remedies the greyness of much post-Viennese I2-tone writing by choosing shorter series with an ear to their colour: he who early (in Preludes of 1929) took the path of modalism never mind how complex....... unmanipulated and untransposed in the right hand......... the outer interval here is a major seventh with a persistent tritone inside its frame (D# .A).- po 108 ) ciA^ AHLo~~r~ rt1rr cn^] (el1r pr r4r) Note: "KA" has several different meanings......2).." individual notes all refer the ear directly to that middle C.... of its band of sound.........t....... The B which occurs first between C(E) and C S......... ma uan poo - sostenufo poco r1oeverc?o ca .......-I ..... dealing with a four-note series (D..fmarcato _ versions) 8 ...those two standbys of Vif Ex. rejecting that of total chromaticism............... is a downward extension of the C..... The spontaneous impression of the high-speed rhythmic patterning veils the fact that we are antitonality that project a multivectored geometry of sound in which the note as note is ... and as such is different from the intervals above it precisely because the context (together with our knowledge of later developments) suggests that it is no interval all. at A parallel example from Messiaen's Canteyodjayashould help make this clear (Ex.. ...D # ... molto --. All the same........A) .......... and is later 'frozen' on to the C in the passage's only 'simultaneity'..rr trr r rT? 8 ....a rempo...........................................12 Tanmatras: Lifeand Work GiacintoScelsi The of Ex...2 mf staccato (inter....I J =08 r......... ...... the principal one is "Essence......... untransposed in the left hand as well though 'free' in order and rhythm............. the upper octave being no exception...... ^^^ tr....^- - -.....E.....

more elaborate. Y. piece of melodic writing which Scelsi would have known is the long monody at the beginning ofJolivet's 'La vache' from the piano suite Mana: Ex. . had sought a non-serial (=organic) atonality rather as Messiaen. Jolivet. Another.4 > . The end of Ka's second movement brings a < estprssivo p .maJ /=}) .4.y 3 r~~ \ ~ F 3 r . --y-f ^ff ----- T or r -r jena -peol ' / J I3/ ^*nf. Once more we have a chromatic aggregate contained within an octave. Once again in the passage quoted it is the major seventh and tritone that one feels behind every note as it passes by. - ! . >-- : Y~ 3 L) m ~.pp ut f /P r i 3 ~. \ . _ passage that is the pianistic equivalent of Scelsi's later device of tonal fluctuation within a band of sound: Ex. under the influence of Varese. ' I I ienzma ped. . The E for instance in the second bar Ex.x 4 prx Comre . 3 c Fempo \ p ' 3 t /3 : 73' t _/ .3 J= 52 strainstowards the B6 of its upper tritone rather than nestling close to the preceding F. Quite a different situation from the B below middle C in the first movement of Ka.). had briefly sought a serial modality.. the follower of Emmanuel. 3: ~ X t .p3II7~~~~ez poowf e r ?ed. -. making one wonder if the four-note groups of movement I should not be considered as r. This time the contents could be described as clusters.Tanmatras: Life and Workof GiacintoScelsi 13 The scarcely to be heard..

F) . The Bb.i alourdr' o^ -'7 Sp.7. the semi-tone F clinging above the E's. music which had gone out of fashion before the recognition of CharlesIves once more called attention to it. characteristically. Pedal (introduced gradually. the second violin in the Ex. since in all but a single instance where the 'band' is widened to encompass a whole tone (D J .E. reinforced in the bass by furtheroctave doubling. . ratherthan framing it harmonically. If J ^r I _ .* Rude . with the C( seeming liturgical merely to support the E.: (Ex.it gives the measure the band EF. like a gathering mist). become Df. The last page of Ka ushers in its terminal F$ (here Scelsi too has succumbed to the magic of the tritone) via a distant E. Jolivet achieves something similar in another piece from Mana."J (. now with its band extended upwards by that same C . - I --- .the C that began the piece.7 1 ( 9I 13=sL-3 ' 'S.1 I -" Is~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~'v~ V The last movement has a percussivefiguration that Scelsi marksto be played 'like sabreblows': alternation of hands (like stopped and unstopped string.Plus lent -.6). At this point the E comes forward in its own right There is more than a suggestion of (comeprima). chant here. "K7 --rD. Ex. = f L ~~_ i#m l *6 o l 5 1 \SM-~ 83. But when at last the E dies away.3 I I _ -.8).. m. touch and layout result in resonant thuds: microclusters. the C S falls to C ." LL L. The 'chordal'motion has in fact taken the music from the E below middle C to the octave above.- h'A. c -- !) ) 5 1 . seems almost like a figure in a of landscape. Movement IV brings a bell-likepassage. one could well call them.) (Ex.we are dealing with minor-second dyads.7 / . this is the sort of experimental music from the world before Darmstadt that helped Scelsi on his way. r. f 7 . with._ - .5 MOLro rMlRATro(J =54) (jempre /csciando vb6rcre colped. when it arrives.5). Pedalling. In spite of the sevenths (here associated with perfect fourths and fifths rather than tritones). r.The 14 Tanmatras: Lifeand Work GiacintoScelsi of horizontal clusters. 'La princesse de Bali': Ex.given shape by irregular rhythmic pulsations and vibrato pedalling which provoke tonal and microtonal over-lapping (Ex. v.

I want you to under Maurice Leroux on 4 December I9614 at compose a G'. outburst in the first movement that suggests (to me. - - . more spontaneous * * * but everything is alreadythere. A door has been In I959 Scelsi wrote the Quattro Pezzi chiascuno opened. whether Scelsi heard the first perform. each one on a single it had become possible to tell a conservatoire note) for small orchestra. is incorrect. The succession in the Quattro into the spacious microtonal polyphony of his later style. Though as usual with Scelsi. B.and this becomes clearer if region of his own discovery. Pezzi is as follows: F.6 t--.- con ped. The QuattroPezzi are in no way a loosely 4Thus the 1959 date given for the first performance in the connected series.. what happened later on may be more interesting. and cited by Harry Halbreich in his notes to the recording of the QuattroPezzi They have as much right to be calleda symphony ('c'est l'une des tres raresoeuvres de Scelsi qui furent crees t6t as Webern's op. There is something of Ligeti as turns out to be a transposition and re-ordering well in the first movement of Konx-Om-Pax (I969).A. though the mighty Trio. One-note composition is just a step away. B. su unanotasola (FourPieces. ete composees en 1960'. but in .-9----f m 6- PT -E (Pj ' 6 F-- --a*-f -6 ------v (sempre . t 6 X 1 the Palais de Chaillot in Paris.senzq ped.[ \ G 6 ~ 1 I 19: * _ poco IO cre'se. A. and have an importance for the history of musical composition comparable to that of the first serial scores of Schoenberg and of the Modes et valeurs of Messiaen. has this succesVishnu dancing on a mountain of skulls is there to show us sion: Bb. In fact it is a near-constant apres leur achevement').. Though it is still possible that they were writtenin 1959 since Henri Michaux in a letter from I9 In the light of the many radical simplifications October 1961 remarks: 'Enfin on va entrendre cette oeuvre in his music this decision could only have been unique'. Ff.. In all three cases. usually three or four of them. Scelsi's String Traces of Ligeti's influence are to be found here and there which resembles the QuattroPezzi in a throughout Aion for orchestra (I96I). a sort of experimental suite. the limits of that influence. Their lines only exceptionally of research at that time were utterly different.Tanmatras: Life and Workof GiacintoScelsi 15 The Ex.2I. representedgraphically: opening bars of Brahms's G major String sustain what can Sextet). and the final morendo be described as hypnotic fixation on a only single pitch. things are not so simple as that. In any case.movements based on a convincing succession tonal counterpoint of works like the Second String Quartet of single notes.b.a recognition that a singlepiece could ances of Ligeti's Atmospheres and Lontano (I960-I) before be based on a one note. my lad. at least) number of important aspects.to my mind the high point in Scelsi's production of the Quattro Pezzi's one. .- - --- 6 (.8 r:fen. when he was expanding the micro.jrino al/a fine 7-O'j p I . The programme tells us with Scelsi that he retains the classic division 'les quatrePieces pour orchestresont recentespuisqu'ellesont into movements.structural.he is utterly himself again in yet another successions . C . on examination. In fact both Pjhat(1974) for large means . Ligeti was better to devise a convincing succession of useful to Scelsi later on.They were performed student: 'And now. Musik-Konzepte volume on Scelsi.) " 1. As Harry Halbreich likes to point out.which. It was finishing the QuattroPezzi is of little importance.

. the piano.also refused. There is perhaps another reason why Scelsi time: a 'band' of a major second distanced by a tritone (-fourth-major third).Bb .that of colleagues . Here we are in the presence of a problem Thus the man who seemed so isolated from his central to the study of Scelsi's music . quite literallyrefuslate I950s he worked out skeletal patternson the ed the profession of composer .the quartetswith a few more instrumentswas in ment.Ab the human voice. that the two are Ages of Man. the most important yet to Hirayama.prayers of Tibetan monks.who. is certain. as well. Almost everyone composition. Zeller del capricomo remarks in his essay. It is to be hoped that one music based on the breath and heartbeat that day soon musicologists will be given access to would move the soul and not just the emotions the wealth of recorded material in the Scelsi something. were worked up from these individual layers projected by a single instrument. that complicity in the face of in the ordinary sense.was not covered counterpoint and found it tedious.hidden resourcesof performers. even the most exotic of the solo scores dividing. It had become the the correct date for the String Trio is 1958 (as instrument of his solitude. In this Scelsi was possibly because Scelsi. very likely under the influence . and so he sought. reducible to a plurality of individual lines and The chamber works. for a or groups of pieces. Scelsi said farewell to his own instru. recording and later using them for more than the isolation of the creative act. in spirit at least.to build differently tuned described as a two-part invention with some pianos so that two or three of them together voices added by one who had recently discould provide microtonal textures . and with it the possibility to recon. 1957-65). The solution of ricercarfrom the Musical Offering could be Wyshnegradsky .relationshipwith a performer. as it were. The London critic who wrote that thing. He was looking. This is evident in the case of thing that Scelsi wrote in the I960s and 70s was Aitsi (1974) for piano with electronic transform. refersto the fact that we have only copies of the Pezzi Quattro Trio String . A more serious objection has to do with the acceptable to him. had not the physical strength to work meditation that made it possible to play without the long hours necessary for a thoroughgoing a conscious act of will. overtones and special B C pedallingto approximatemicrotonalharmonies. Zeller trustingly spite more pianistscompromised rhythmicflexibility. With Action Music Scelsi's pieces for string orchestra were simply (I955). Intonation remained fixed in of the finer tuning. F B F-B He was now moving towards the opposite pole. for Scelsi. are the equivalent of his course. But the interesting thing is that he open to the composer: that of full-textured chose to exercise it on materialsdrawn from the scores ranging from the string quartetsto large. However. not least because of its lack of a sense right. even if abandoned the piano.bor directly or indirectly from a close working ation and the Fifth String Quartet (1984) . and the cello Trilogia (The Three be published on Scelsi's music. though he missed the point. One experiences. as ondulina (with its microtonal possibilities). He insisted on a yoga of Michaux. The microtonal possibilities. arevirtuallyportraits. given its final shape not so different.and that of most partunknown to the performers solo pieces of a greater length and intensity than before working with him. He did so with an eye to re-elaboration of the original improvised the liberation of personality rather than to the structure. a solitude that given in the Musik-Konzepte catalogue). None of this. the orchestral scores being with Frances-Marie Uitti. In this way the Canti (1962-72) written with Michiko anything he had yet achieved. It is not so easily seen in earlierpairs suppressionof it. who broke the certainly a musical researcher. however. H. and the need for two or way Scelsi'smusic was written. two paths now lay invention. It is clear that from the himself in the I930s and 40s. R. the weighed on him. no classical composer had done for centuries. into multiple them.16 Tanmatras: Lifeand Work GiacintoScelsi The of Scelsi had already done all he could with the piano using clusters. in working QuattroPezzi are not an outgrowth of the Trio with others. possessed a high degree of musical fancy and After the QuattroPezzi. would have happened had Scelsi not musical notebooks.resourcesfor the themselves scale pieces for chorus and orchestra. existence his privatelife no longer affordedhim.reproduce on an architectonic level a recurrent of yoga and the great importance it gives to situation in Ka and other Scelsi scores of the the discipline of breathing.but the research compositional silence of his last years to write he carriedout was as much on the player as on the Quartet as a memorial to his friend Henri the instrument. after his failure to establish improvised matrices. like the ritual Nachlass. of struct what.

for amplified music is in favour with one of the directors of ItalianRadio piano.and. Naifs have not been infrequent in the down the more complex pieces. curiously enough. of the earlier work.6 The the fact does make a difference. and so everyone'smaking a fuss over it'.common with Indian and all traditional musics tions that they. It to have worked with Scelsi were capable of was from improvisations worked up to nearthat.5 As it is. the in any case it didn't matter since it was utter rubbish. musicians who had sacrificed years of their life What this means is that Scelsi's music was in formal study to become competent profesconceived without the set of habits and pre.Scelsi's name began to be known. we should be careful in our notation. as in scribes for long afterwards. to Adrian York H6ller.and he worked with musicians But the cas Scelsi. who had no need of anything so the point of view of an aristocrat whose mean as notation. 'Only the Fourth Quartet. And even so. discussing the 1987ISCM Festivalin Cologne over a beer when it was all over: 'By far the most interesting Jack (who was the one to put me on to his event for me was the Scelsi evening. An exception is the Fifth String Quartet 1940s until he went blind some 30 years later. however He did revise what he had already written and watered down and conventionalized. That Scelsi felt impelled to write it at all (an institution that has done everything possible to hold up shows the sorrow he felt at the death of his Scelsi's acceptance in Italy). You see. Tosatti's same improvisation. even on a transcription' [they had prepared the score of Sauh (1973) together] 'the choice of dynamics. Henri Michaux. Gyorgy Kurtag. Nevertheless there certain respects Charles Ives had been before is little doubt that he could not have written him. these people happened to be composers in their The crucial thing that Scelsi's music has in own right. at least in the later. the poet. du yearsafterLa naissance verbe. Tosatti began which.Tanmatras: Life and Workof GiacintoScelsi 17 The manuscripts.composed all his new books with a personal dedication. though few degree of mental control he had over them. betraysthe influence. It's quartets he rang me up to tell me: 'It appears rather a Italian really quite simple. what surely decides with Salabert). But it's enough to consider myself an adept of that man.g out of an idea he always knew exactly what he wanted'. But the word) there to supervise and edit. Scelsi music. the workir.' . He was somewriting was invented. Tristan Murail and of our time. some poems of Scelsi's (written in French)in the preparation of the text of his own Gedichtkonzert.sionals would know what to make of such a dispositions that come from a mastery of claim.The whatJean Leymarie calls lapuretedesorigines.) great composers born in the early years of this century'. however. of another view. in England. or better. as noted above. who sent him to do with Scelsi's music. remember the day when I had scores of the FrancoDonatoni at lunch with his composition students in sent to Irvine Arditti. Shortly thereafter Trastevere in I988: 'I don't know what the problem is. [The other two being Petrassi and Dallapiccola. but that the same compositional matrix. actually wrote the is its character as frozen improvisation. nor a bungling amateur who ancestorsdid well enough for themselves before paid others to write his music.] 'Scelsi's music was unknown till recently. prepared his into East and West. not the manuscripts themselves such a thing exists from the musical point of (something true. I refuse to believe this brought him judgments of a man who used to say with great any closer to the physical nature of sound. if there is such a thing. Gradually. and perhaps the best-preserved branch. of which Indian music was scores with the help of other people. when that venture proved a cul-de-sac. Horatiu Radulescu. no matter the history of painting and poetry. derives from writing letters to various musicjournals in Italy after Scelsi's death to say that he had written all the music himself.' SThemost important collaboratorof Scelsi was Vieru Tosatti Towards 1975 Scelsi almost ceased to comwho seems to have worked with him on and off from the late pose. There's something really music) . with the composer (though he detested change according to who wrote it down. but that his Requiem. and who employed thing much more like an inspired naif. on his way to an evening at Ada Gentile's after being collected at his hotel: 'Do you know Scelsi's music at all?' (say I). which has inevitably led to accusa. truth is that Scelsi was neither a sublime Scelsi himself may have thought of it from visionary. as Aitsi. it for publication (first with Schirmer's Tosatti's lack of scruples is reflected in the use he made of prepare and. Some of one. composers who are among the most meticulouslyprofessional thanks to Gerard Grisey. is the opinion of three who wanted to perform his music. if satisfactionof his breakdown afterWorld War II: 'I forgot everything I ever knew about music. more European music which preceded the division experimental phase of his career. Nor does the characterof what is written scores. so I am not unfamiliar with it. not Scelsi. What interested him was an ancient Indotruth of the matter is that there are no 'manuscripts' since Scelsi. The fact is that Tosatti's early neoclassic scores have nothing friend. Domenico Scarlatti). I new there. I do believe it helped him in his quest for great Italianeccentric. That man is a wizard!'. (Interview with StefaniaGianni. there were three 6Frances-Marie Uitti leaves no room for doubt on this point: 'It was always interesting to work with Giacinto. none of the composers known was a fluent and highly skilled improviser. Their own music has nothing to do with definitive form that Scelsi's aides prepared the his.

When this mistake was rectified it was found that there was not enough room for the remains of what had been a tiny slip of a man in the space allotted to him. heard more music than before. . The house overlooking the Forum is now the IsabellaScelsi Foundation. August is the cruellest month in Rome and he who can avoid it does so. seat of the French Academy in Rome. to Cologne and Frankfurtfor his orchestralpieces. when the will clearly provided for his burial in the vault of his mother and sister in another part entirely of Verano cemetery. The foundation has already organized its first concert: MusicheRitualidi GiacintoScelsi.The 18 Tanmatras: Lfe and Work ofGiacintoScelsi A paejC tihcJourtlih fom ofScelsi'sQuattro Pezzi su una Nota Sola. most of it unperformed for years after it was written. at the Villa Medicis. large fish has got through our nets'. though Bruna and Salvatore have been allowed to live there for the rest of their days. and the occasional concert where he was taken by his driver Salvatore. 7The hearse first carriedthe body to the wrong vault.to London for a two concert evening of his chamber music. and after-concertreceptions with a fleet of servants that lasted well after midnight. The projecting part of the coffin was masked by flowers and work to be done left for another day. of 1983by EditionsSalabert. Though it was Heinz-Klaus Metzger who took Scelsi's casein hand and brought out the Musik-Konzepte volume of essays on him. ( courtesy UnitedMusicPublisiersLtd. Life at Via di San Teodoro 8 went on as ever. goes steadily on.7 Both were marked by utter lack of preparation and the absence of all but a handful of musical friends. There were the vegetarian dinners with a little ham for the rest of us served by Bruna his cook. that of his father. Then Wolfgang Becker and Ernst Albrecht Stiebler were won over and so Scelsi began travelling again . except perhaps that Scelsi saw more people. Thus the work of making known some of the most original music of our time. the birthday parties. About the funeral and the mass which preceded it the less said the better.

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