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XX-XXI A century of isms and neos

Some reflections about the New Simplicity School

New Simplicity School

Technical Procedures of Antonio Celso Ribeiros Musical Language

One brief word...

Some Composers are not Islands is the name of Kyle Ganns article. The author refers to the role that composers now are devoted: to analyze the other composers' music and to understand/to identify the contained/received influences.

Gyrgy Ligeti:
I tend to not have a very high regard for artists who develop their compositional esthetics in just one way and produce the same throughout their lives. In my own work, I prefer to put constantly a compositional process into questioning, changing it, even to abandon it and replacing it with another process.

Cage wrote a mesostic for Nancarrow that reads:

oNce you / sAid / wheN you thought of / musiC, / you Always / thought of youR own / neveR / Of anybody elses. / thats hoW it happens. (Gann)

According to Gann, a life exclusively focused on my own music seems unimaginable. My musicological work feeds my composition, and vice versa. When I've been doing too much critical work and not composing, I get cranky; and when I've been composing continuously, I dry up a little, and I start to need the interaction with the music of others.

It's not that I steal so many ideas from other composers, though of course I never scruple to do that. Nothing about the other people's music I'm working on went into the piece I just finished. I just need that rejuvenation from other artist's ideas, the mere presence of simpatico music I didn't write.

Schumann certainly spent a lot of his career inside other composers' heads, and seems to have enjoyed having a trunkload of Schubert's manuscripts in his apartment, from which to draw for the occasional world premiere whenever he fancied. Liszt played the piano music of every significant contemporary except Brahms (who offended him by falling asleep at the premiere of Liszt's B minor Sonata).

Part of it is what I think Henry Cowell sensed: that there's no such thing as a famous composer in a musical genre no one's heard of, and so one's personal survival depends on a rising tide raising all boats. But Morton Feldman also tells a story of an artist in the '50s who, after seeing Jackson Pollock's first astounding exhibition of drip paintings, remarked, "I'm so glad he did it. Now I don't have to.

I hear an exquisite piece like John Luther Adams's The Light Within, and I do think, somehow, "I'm so glad he did it, now I don't have to" - partly because I want to hear that kind of ecstatic wall-of-sound genre, and he can so it much better than I could. Mikel Rouse's music is so much more sophisticated than my intentionally naive fare, but listening to him gets me back on track.

Philosophical Bearings
Leonard Meyer [(1956). Emotion and Meaning in Music. Chicago: Chicago University Press.] begins by defining and contrasting classic positions in philosophical aesthetics. He outlines two contrasting dichotomies: the absolutist versus referentialist views, and the formalist versus expressionist views:

ABSOLUTIST: "musical meaning lies exclusively within the context of the work itself." REFERENTIALIST: "musical meanings refer to the extramusical world of concepts, actions, emotional states, and character."

FORMALIST: "the meaning of music lies in the perception and understanding of the musical relationships set forth in the work of art and that meaning in music is primarily intellectual" EXPRESSIONIST: "the expressionist would argue that these same relationships are in some sense capable of exciting feelings and emotions in the listener"

If an art medium is seen more as a tool for communicating meaning, () then it has a chance to go far beyond its own self, to reach the cross-point of all artistic genres where the essence is not the result of expression, but the subject of it. (Stanojevic, 2004)

The New Simplicity School

New Simplicity (in German, die neue Einfachheit) was a stylistic tendency amongst some of the younger generation of German composers in the late 1970s and early 1980s, reacting against not only the European avant garde of the 1950s and 1960s, but also against the broader tendency toward objectivity found from the beginning of the twentieth century. Alternative terms sometimes used for this movement are "inclusive composition", new subjectivity (neue Subjektivitt), new inwardness (Neue Innigkeit), New Romanticism, New Sensuality, New Expressivity, New Classicism, and New Tonality.

In general, these composers strove for an immediacy between the creative impulse and the musical result (in contrast to the elaborate precompositional planning characteristic of the avant garde), with the intention also of communicating more readily with audiences. In some cases this meant a return to the tonal language of the 19th century as well as to the traditional forms (symphony, sonata) and instrumental combinations (string quartet, piano trio) which had been avoided for the most part by the avant garde. For others it meant working with simpler textures or the employment of triadic harmonies in non-tonal contexts.

Arvo Prt
"I have discovered that it is enough when a single note is beautifully played. This one note, or a silent beat, or a moment of silence, comforts me. I work with very few elements - with one voice, with two voices. I build with the most primitive materials with the triad, with one specific tonality."

The new simplicity in my works

Motto: behind its apparent simplicity lays a great complexity Aesthetic attitude: emphatic focus on subjectivity and expressivity and the quest for communication with the audience

Although Ive been exploring a wide musical idiom, from modal scales to microtonalisms, my recent works have been classified in the field of New Tonalism and the New Simplicity School, always having as a starting point a text, a poetry or imagery regardless of languages, time or country.

Antonio Celso Ribeiro

Analysis of some of his Compositions
Resonances Medieval compositional procedures Baroque style Tonic pedal Weak or very simple harmonic progressions Thematic similarities between different works; reorchestrations Predominance of an unique compositional element Homophony Time signatures in agreement with the musical phrases; metrical assimetries Contradictory notation rhythmical paradoxisms Melody forms (scales, fragments, ect) Extended techniques

There are 3 kinds of resonances in my compositions: The first one deals with sounds residues left by dissonant clusterlike chords changing afterward into consonances played by the piano (examples shown here: El Diablo y la Melancola; Break Away Secrets); The second one deals with resulted consonance/dissonance by holding down the respective piano key after the note is played (examples shown here: el caballero de la triste figura; The Bethsaida Miracle ato secondo); The third one deals with sympathetic vibrations, pressing down some assigned keys without sounding it and playing others notes in order to make the pressed key notes to vibrate (examples shown here: H - Palavras Soltas; Outono)

Break Away - Secrets

The Bethsaida Miracle ato secondo

Medieval compositional procedures...

Some compositional techniques from the Middle Ages are recovered in order do add some excitement and beauty to the work. Here we include: The use of polyphonic notation (see: Verzweiflung); Imitation and counterpoint (see: Danse des Fous), Polychrony several tempos occuring at the same time (see: Piping Down the Valleys Wild); Dance-like melody (see: La Doncella y la Melancola Dulce Dama Donaira en Dulcidana); Use of retrograde motion (see: Le Lacrime della Vergine Triste Ploratio); Hocquetus-style accompaniment (see: Le Lacrime della Vergine Singultus); Gregorian chant style melody (see: Si la Beaut)

ten or maybe nine useless songs...

[polyphonic notation]

Danse des Fous [imitation and counterpoint]


La doncella y la melancola
[Danse-like melody]

Le lacrime della Vergine triste ploratio

[retrograde motion]

Le lacrime della Vergine - singultus


Si la beaut

[Gregorian chant]

Baroque-like ornamentation and style...

Revival of Baroque ornaments as trills, gruppetos, mordents, doppeltcadences, appoggiaturas, acciaccaturas, glissandi and portamentos (see: Ten or Maybe Nine Short Useless Songs of Joy or Strangeness Stille Leuchtet die Kerze). Also is brought in evidence the spirit of baroque suite, in the overall structure of a composition, making some allusions to Bach and Haendel textures employment (see: My Minuet is Broken, Two Baroque Sadness y una Vals desvairada para l). From Brazilian Baroque, the composer steals the dark atmosphere and deep religiosity of Minas Gerais churches, mainly those built by Francisco Antonio Lisboa (known as Aleijadinho). Examples: Bitter Baroque Ballads- Tears; Ave; Breve Litania para Nossa Senhora das Mercs; Le Jeu du Roi qui Jamais ne Ment

[Baroque ornaments]

Ten or maybe nine short useless songs... Stille leuchtet die Kerze

ten or maybe nine short useless songs...

[Bach/Handel textures]

Two baroque sadness y una vals desvairada para l - entre

[Bach/Handel textures]

Bitter baroque ballads - tears

[Brazilian baroque]


[Brazilian baroque]

[Brazilian baroque]

Breve litania para Nossa Senhora das Mercs

[Brazilian baroque]

Le jeu du roi qui jamais ne ment 1 mascarada

Tonic pedals...
The use of a constant and steady note in the composition is an allusion to pre-polyphonic organum vocal music of late medieval Europe and other classical traditions as Japanese gagaku or the Byzantine chant (ison). In the musical examples, the drone note causes the melody to flow (see: Amoris Divini et Humana Antipathia Sanatio Amoris), or recalls the bagpipe music (see: O O O Par la Pluie Oh! Amargo Fim!). It can also evoke the power and religiosity of Byzantine chant (see: Preghiera alla Vergine Cantus e), or creating an ecstatic/tense movement (see: Cheiro de Terra Molhada de Chuva Ciranda)

Amoris divini et humana antipathia sanatio amoris

[melody flowing]

O O O par la pluie oh! Amargo fim!

[bagpipe music recalling]

Preghiera alla vergine canto i


Cheiro de terra molhada de chuva - ciranda

[ecstatic/tense mouvement]

Weak or very simple harmonic progressions...

Opposing to the traditional concept of tonal harmony, where strong harmonic progressions are generally the norm, the work of the composer prioritizes the use of weak harmonic progressions. The option causes the music to sound more neutral (see: Amoris Divini et Humana Antipathia Babylon Amoris), or even ecstatic and intimate (see: Dolores and Cor Som Movimento Palavras Soltas K).

Amoris divini et humana antipathia babylon amoris

[more neutral]

Amoris divini et humana antipathia babylon amoris

[more neutral]



Thematic similarities between different works; reorchestrations...

Sometimes two different compositional ideas share the same feeling, image, or fate. So, the possible solution for this impasse is both scores to share thematic similarities. Examples: El Caballero de la Triste Figura Duerme Sancho Panza... & La Doncella y la Melancola La Vida Debe Seguir; Two Baroque Sadness y una Vals desvairada para l Entre & Brevissima Missa Pauperis Veni Sancte Spiritus; The Bethsaida Miracle Ato Secondo & Bitter Baroque Ballads Disillusion; Las Visiones de Margarida, La Loca 4th movement & Mia Santa Margarida 1st movement; A Velha Sarah est Serena e to Saudosa... & Mia Santa Margarida 3rd movement. In other occasions, theres a need to expand, contract or to give new colors to a certain kind of composition. Thus a work scored for two instruments can be reorchestrated into eleven instruments, the same way a work scored for five instruments can be rearranged for two instruments (see: Break Away Regrets and Songs of Sadness 4)

Dresden impressions
[same feeling/image/fate]

[same feeling/image/fate]

La doncella y la melancola la vida debe seguir

[same feeling/image/fate]

Two baroque sadness y una vals desvairada para el - entre

[same feeling/image/fate]

Brevissima missa pauperis veni sancte spiritus

[same feeling/image/fate]

The bethsaida miracle ato secondo

[same feeling/image/fate]

Bitter baroque ballads

[same feeling/image/fate]

Las visiones de margarida la loca - 4

[same feeling/image/fate]

Mia santa margarida - 3

[same feeling/image/fate]

Mia santa margarida - 1

[same feeling/image/fate]

A velha Sarah est serena e to saudosa...

Break away - regrets

[a need to expand/contract/new colors]

Break away
A need to expand/new colors]

Songs of sadness - 4

[a need to expand/new colors]

[a need to expand/new colors]

Songs of sadness - 4

Predominance of an unique compositional element...

Some of the works share a preference for one specific compositional element. In the following examples O O O Par la Pluie Dulcidana and Song of Sadness II, the chosen element is the minor chord

OOO par la pluie - dulcidana

Songs of Sadness II

Theres a need sometimes, to have all things sounding together, under a unique voice, a unique body of sound. Homophony is only used in vocal or choral works, making the understanding of the text/words clear and precise. Examples: Preghiera alla vergine canto e; Lege mich wie ein Siegel; an autumn greeting;

Preghiera alla vergine canto e

Lege mich wie ein siegel

an autumn greeting

Time signatures in agreement with the musical phrases; metrical assimetries, scalar melodies, fragments...
Rather than marking a regular pulse, time signatures are used according to the musical phrase, functioning the same way the regular language does, obeying to it own sintax (see: Le Printemps). The time signature also defines the lenght of the musical phrase (metrical assymmetry), as seen in Cnticos de Veneracin a la Virgen de las Rosas Adoracin II and Amoris Divini et Humana Antipathia LAmour Humain. Scalar melodies can be seen in Bitter Baroque Ballads Disillusion and in Le Lacrima della Vergine Lamentationes. Melodies built from scalar fragments can be seen in Two Mechanical Birds and a Melancholic Cage The Melancholic Cage and in Dies Irae des Fous Cantus IV, and Ma Fin Est Mon Commencement)

[according to musical phrasing, obeying it sintax]

Le Printemps

Cnticos de Veneracin a la Virgen de las Rosas

[lenght of musical phrase/metrical assymetries]

Amoris Divini et Humana Antipathia Lamour Humain

[lenght of musical phrase]

Bitter Baroque Ballads - Disillusion

[scalar melody]

Le Lacrime della Vergine

[scalar melody]

[scalar melody]

Le lacrime della Vergine - Lamentationes

[scalar melody]

Le Lacrime della Vergine - Lamentationes

[scalar melody]

Le Lacrime della Vergine - Lamentationes

Dies Irae des Fous Cantus IV

[melody from scalar fragments]

Dies Irae des Fous Cantus IV

[melody from scalar fragments]

[melody from scalar fragments]

Two Mechanical Birds and a Melancholic Cage Melancholic Cage

[melody from scalar fragments]

Ma Fin Est Mon Commencement

Contradictory notation rhythmical paradoxisms...

Sometimes the composer uses a contradictory time signature to express a special feeling, swing or mood.
In Solido, a clear 2/4 meter is used instead of right 3/4 meter, even though the music itself claims for this ternary feeling. In Bitter Baroque Ballads, the contratempo (countertime) in the piano part creates in the cello part the false feeling of syncopation, as the part is written in thetic mode. In Brevissima Missa Pauperis Pater, theres an non conventional use of the 9/8 meter, both for the piano and voice, since the basic swing for 9/8 (tuplets) is not considered on it. In La Doncella y la Melancola Dulce Dama Donnez Moi lAdieu, the piece is written in 3/4 meter, but is sounding effectively in 6/8 meter. In Visiones de una Vieja Ventana Mamma, the rhythm pattern in the electric bass part, with its regular syncopation and tuplet gives the (false) feeling of moving faster than the other instruments (a false polychrony)

[wrong meter]

[false syncopation]

[inappropiate use]

La Doncella y la Melancola 4 Dulce Dame Donnez Moi lAdieu

[3/4 instead of 6/8]

Visiones de una Vieja Ventana 5 Mamma

[false polychrony]

Extended techniques...
Some pieces require a few preparations (Piano, Guitar) or a special (or non conventional) way to play the instrument (Piano, Guitar, Harp, Flute, Violoncello, Doublebass). Also, some pieces ask for the player to sing or speaks. Other ask the singer to play some percussion. Examples shown: Stray Birds; Impossible Grace; Tales of the Wandering Moon; Danse des Fous; Baal Zebhubh; Ten or Maybe Nine Short Useless Songs of Joy or Strangeness; The Good Dreams of a Poor Horsekeeper

Stray Birds (for Piano 6 Hands)

Impossible Grace

(Ten or Maybe Nine Short Useless Songs of Joy or Strangeness)

Some inspirational images

Two Mechanical Birds and a Melancholic Cage

Shui-Sha Lian The Old Lakes Spirit Sleeps and Dreams so Sweetly...

Ma Fin est mon Commencement [print by Leonor Alvim Brazao]

Gocco Music for a Ghost Bird Print [print by Julianna Swaney]

Ten or Maybe Nine Short Useless Songs of Joy and Strangeness

The Good Dreams of a Poor Horse Keeper [for Omnibus Ensemble Tashkent] Sayyid Shams al-Din al-Hassani, signed: 1210 Kashan, Iran

Musica Reservata [print by Toulouse-Lautrec At the Moulin Rouge]

Nossa Senhora do Pilar Church Ouro Preto, MG

Nossa Senhora do Rosrio Church

Jonah, the Prophet

Antnio Francisco Lisboa (Aleijadinho b.1730 d. 1814)

Pavillion Passion of Christ - Congonhas, MG

Christ in the Mount of Olives

The Last Supper

The Capture of Christ

Crown of Thorns

Flagellation of Christ

Manoel da Costa Atade (1762-1830)

Ceiling of Church of St. Francis of Assisi Ouro Preto, MG

Color Sound Movement Loose Words (Leonor Alvim Fabric-collage)