Recorded on 01/01/1999, uploaded on 06/13/2009
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Kanal, Wound and Salvage together comprise a single work, Trinity,
where, in a live performance, Wound interrupts the final low sounds
of Kanal, forming a seamless extension from Kanal; and Salvage,
with its concluding meditations answering its earlier brutality, starts
only after the last sounds of Wound die away completely. The broad shape
of Trinity, then, consists of the early buildup of Kanal and, in
the piano's lowest register, its extended decay, followed by thethree
progressively longer, turbulent passages of Wound, and, varying the
shape of Kanal, the concluding flow and ebb of Salvage, ending
with three meditations, the last dissolving in the piano's highest register. In
a word, the sonic shape of Trinity is formed by two textural arches (Kanal
and Salvage) surrounding three 'spikes' (Wound).
Kanal and Wound respond to times of violence in the twentieth
century (Poland during World War II and Vietnam in the 1960s respectively). Salvage
confronts the violence, seeking reconciliation. The Christian Trinity, with
its central figure the wounded and dying Christ on the cross, richly suggests a
not dissimilar juxtaposition of violence and reconciliation; hence the title
'Trinity'. (Trinity is also the location in New Mexico of the world's first
atomic bomb explosion.)
Although conceived in the late 1960s, the completion of Trinity spans
25 years (Wound in 1968, Kanal in 1976, Salvage in 1993). Trinity
has at the time of writing been performed as a single unit on three
occasions, by Fredrik Ullen (in New York, Chicago and Stockholm).
Kanal (Polish for 'sewer'), inspired by Andrzej Wajda's film of the
same name, 'interprets' various violent and quiet images in the film, although
it does not recreate any scenes. Nevertheless, the music shares the film's
general profile: in the film, partisans of the 1944 Warsaw uprising battle
Nazis in the streets before retreating into sewers, where they are eventually
annihilated; in the music, increasingly agitated material forces its way to the
top of the piano before tumbling to the lowest registers, where it gradually
Although formally seamless, Kanal can be heard in two parts, joined
by the registral tumble a third of the way into the work. Each part has two
sections - A and B in Part 1, C and D in Part 2. Section A, alternating
agitated with quiet passages, introduces ideas and textures. Its two large
contours each expand from, and return to, the piano's registral centre. (The
film presents Warsaw in ruins, preparations for battle and initial skirmishes.)
Section B opens with gently flowing material, but becomes increasingly
violent and kaleidoscopic as it ascends to the highest registers and tumbles
into Part 2. (The action in the film intensifies as partisans retreat and enter
Part 2 remains anchored, but not confined, to the piano's lower half (the
'sewer'). At first, Section C roils; later a pounding texture climbs to the
highest keys before hurtling down. (In the film Poles defend themselves in the
sewers and seek escape routes.) The section concludes with a growing
arpeggiation that marks the midpoint of Kanal.
This arpeggiation leads to a low-register churning that finally rushes into
section D, bursting forth with a fervent idea suggested earlier several times.
The subsequent meditative, dreamlike and passionate passages seek to delay the
ultimately prevailing 'sewer' music. (The final part of the film focuses on the
thoughts and fates of doomed individual partisans.)
Kanal is dedicated to Mary Ann Hoxworth.
When performed immediately after Kanal, Wound interrupts the final
four notes of Kanal.
Conceived originally after I had attended a virtuoso 1968 New York piano
recital by Vladimir Horowitz, Wound soon became a reaction to the
violence in Vietnam and in the United States in the streets and on college
campuses. With its collage of starkly juxtaposed textures, Wound contrasts
greatly with the seamless continuities of Kanal and Salvage. It
consists of three brutal, progressively longer sections, with silence breaking
the first in two. Textures evolve generally from kaleidoscopic gestures (first
section), through more sustained but teeming passages (second section), to a
lengthy exploration of the lower register of the piano (third section). Each
section contains passages anticipating the essential character of the next; and
an anguished repetitive passage that tumbles into the third section, as well as
the expanded range and thicker sounds late in the third section, anticipate the
final clustered outcry. After a brief serene pause that recalls the quiet
sounds near the beginning, this final outcry smashes the evolving musical
considerations within Wound.
Besides an introduction (juxtaposing violence and serenity) and conclusion
(the final clusters and their decay), Wound contains quiet interludes between
the three violent sections that provide a poetic glimpse of what is destroyed
by the prevailing violence of the sections, and a musical glance at the most
basic structural aspects of the piece.
Each large section views a wound, with the final brief cluster outcry a
microscopic scene of a raw wound in a body, and at the same time a macroscopic
panorama of a wound in the body politic, which, in either case, is unbearably
turbulent and, finally, fatal.
After its introduction, Salvage at first juxtaposes violent and
meditative music from Kanal and Wound, from smooth transitions to
abrupt interruptions. This double nature gives way to a relentless and
progressively more agitated collage of turbulent textures that eventually fuse
into ever larger ascending arpeggiations and aggregates.
A grotesquely enlarged variation of Salvage's opening sounds lies at
its centre, each sound preceded by vastly swollen 'grace note' activity.
Salvage continues in its second half by dissipating these
cluster-like aggregates, moving through suggestions of turbulence, recalling
material from its beginning, and finally melting into a softer, fluid passage
that prepares for the three quiet meditations (separated by interludes) that
conclude Salvage. The final meditation reaches an exuberant midpoint
before reversing itself and closing with an atmospheric quietness and serenity.
Salvage, written in memory of my mother, acknowledges the themes and
imagery of T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets, including the title of the third
quartet. The final sounds of Salvage might suggest the bells of The
Trinity embraces none of the recognized compositional systems
developed in the twentieth century, nor any describable pre-compositional
production plan. Nevertheless, this traditionally notated work, from
moment-to-moment surface activity to the largest global shapes, results from a
variety of musical considerations:
Underlying the cinematic and gestural descriptions outlined above, the three
works employ motivic ideas, perhaps most prominent in Part 1 of Kanal, and
highlighted sonorities to anchor gestural coherence, or to connect separated
passages. For example, the frequently iterated C - E flat - G flat - D flat
sonority spanning the first octave below middle C serves both functions in Kanal
(especially the last section) and in the central portion of Salvage. Similar
aggregates anchor the spikes of Wound, as do highlighted sonorities the
three final meditations of Salvage.
Pitch class collections stabilize passages and signal their return (for
example, the 'sewer' music of Kanal and portions of the spikes of Wound
employ the aggregate from C chromatically up to F sharp), while alternating
collections help to contrast various passages, influencing a sense of motion
and change. Collections serve as bases for meditative passages throughout Trinity.
On a larger scale, textures are employed to architectural effect, especially
as they contrast and relate sections within and across the three works of Trinity,
and seek to enhance both motion and coherence of form in the global sense.
© George Flynn 2007
No offense, but what is this supposed to sound like? Sorry, but to me it sounds like 71 minutes of random notes. But that's my opinion.
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