What was new music: Arrigo and Bartók in Lourenço

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Abstract

Lourenço’s fragments about Arrigo’s Thumos and Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta are richly implicative. We discuss what Lourenço calls ‘time in reverse,’ both from a music theory perspective and as to how his 1960s interpretations of modernism seemed so distinct from interpretations of the ‘classical’ in art music. Like his contemporary Adorno, he offers the image of ‘new music lighting up on the spot’, Arrigo’s ostinati being compositional examples. Techniques of that kind, we propose, stimulated Lourenço’s concept of music taking us ‘from future to past,’ music in which we live in ‘the abyss of our beginnings.’ In the Bartók, Lourenço finds paradoxes, such as ‘frozen velocity,’ that are inspired by the tension between the experience of musical process and its structural conditions and implications. We focus on three pertinent music-analytical aspects: (1) how the arch design of perfect-fifth entries creates a realtime, multivalent pitch structure; (2) how these multivalent relations are telescoped into the ‘new chromaticism’ of each subject statement; and (3) how relations between micro-level subject and macro-level arch form invoke the organization of certain out-of-time, that is, synchronic, periodic pitch structures, which we theorize as affinity spaces. Recovering a long-lost comparison, we drill down from Thumos in contemporary terms as relatively marginal, and unsurprisingly resistant to contemporary music-analytical explanation, and Bartók’s masterpiece as now regarded as ‘classic’ and in many senses unproblematic. These works came over contemporaneously to Lourenço as equally and fundamentally modernist, a site of the ‘supremely coherent incoherence […] of a vacant universe.’ ; info:eu-repo/semantics/publishedVersion
Original languageEnglish
JournalPortuguese Journal of Musicology
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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