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Edgar Varèse; Music of Edgar Varèse Vol. 1

Edgar Varèse; Music of Edgar Varèse Vol. 1

Modern Silence
OI 002 LP
Long Playing Record

Reissue of Music Of Edgar Varèse, originally released on Columbia Masterworks in 1960. 180-gram LP. Limited edition of 500. From the original liner notes: "Edgard Varèse belongs to the generation of Béla Bartók, Igor Stravinsky, and Anton Webern. Each of these composers produced a music of extreme individuality, like nothing of his contemporaries, and a radical break with that of the previous century. They may be said to have carried music to the limits of atomization, where one or another of its different elements seem to predominate. 'Ionisation' (Paris, 1931) requires an ensemble of thirteen musicians who play a total of thirty-seven percussion instruments. . . .

Most of 'Ionisation' is composed with sonorities of percussion instruments alone. They are pitched instruments, of course, but belong to a category of pitch that we hear only as 'high' or 'low,' 'deep' or 'shallow'; timbre, rather than pitch, is the most conspicuous property of Varèse's orchestra, and rhythm and timbre are the principal elements of 'Ionisation'. . . .

The sense of progress and development the listener feels from the first bar to the last, 'Ionisation' is noble music, capable of exalting the listener. When the masterpieces of the twentieth century are enumerated, it should be on the list, not in first place, perhaps, but there, nevertheless. 'Density 21.5,' a composition for unaccompanied flute solo, was written in January 1936, 'at the request of Georges Barrère for the inauguration of his platinum flute.' . . .

The 'Poème Èlectronique,' an example of Organized Sound, the technique that has come to occupy Varèse's attention since 'Density 21.5' (he rejects the term musique concrète as inapplicable to his kind of composition), was created in close collaboration with the architectLe Corbusier for the Philips Radio Corporation's pavilion at the Brussels Exposition. Le Corbusier designed the pavilion in the shape of a three-peaked circus tent externally and (to use his own analogy) in the shape of a cow's stomach internally. This provided a series of hyperbolic and parabolic curves from which Varèse could project his 480-seconds-long composition. Along these curves, placed with infinite care, were no fewer than 400 loudspeakers through which the 'Poème' swept in continuous arcs of sound. . . . The audience, some fifteen or sixteen thousand people daily for six months, evinced reactions almost as kaleidoscopic as the sounds and images they encountered -- terror, anger, stunned awe, amusement, wild enthusiasm."


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