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Université de Montréal

Silence, Repetition and Staticity:


Non-Discursive Elements in Selected Works for Piano by
Graciela Paraskevaídis, Eduardo Bértola and Mariano Etkin

Daniel Áñez García


ANED05028202

Faculté de musique

Travail de synthèse présenté à la Faculté des études supérieures


pour l'obtention du grade de
Doctorat en musique – Interprétation en piano

Novembre 2011
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Abstract

This research paper is a study of non-discursivity processes in the piano works of three Argentine
composers: Graciela Paraskevaídis (born 1940), Eduardo Bértola (1939-1996) and Mariano Etkin (born
1943).

In it, I analyze sources that deal with non-discursivity, and discuss their pertinence to Latin-American
repertoire. Later, I propose a classification of non-discursive processes based on my personal
experience with this repertoire. I then use this classification to analyze one piano piece by each
composer. Finally, I proceed to give a political dimension to non-discursive processes as employed by
these composers.

My principal aim for examining non-discursivity in Latin-American music is to begin filling a void in a
subject that has very little bibliography. Latin-American use of non-discursivity has been discussed in
the past, but without actually defining what non-discursivity means.

The composers discussed in this paper, along with their contemporaries, used their creative output to
tackle problems of identity and political relevance. As a consequence of such idealism, their
achievements serve as an exemplary model for future generations of composers and musicians,
regardless of nationality, who are in search of a raison d’être in their art.
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Résumé

Le but de cette recherche est d'analyser les processus de non-discursivité dans la musique pour piano
des compositeurs argentins Graciela Paraskevaídis (née 1940), Eduardo Bértola (1939-1996) et
Mariano Etkin (née 1943).

D'abord, j'analyse la bibliographie qui traite ce sujet, en mettant en question sa pertinence par rapport
au répertoire latino-américain. Ensuite, je propose une classification d’événements non-discursifs, basé
sur mon expérience personnelle avec le répertoire latino-américain. J'utilise cette classification pour
analyser une œuvre de chaque compositeur. Finalement, j’ajoute une dimension politique à cette
recherche des processus de non-discursivité chez ces trois compositeurs.

La raison pour laquelle j'approche le problème de la non-discusrivité dans la musique latino-américaine


est que ce sujet est peu abordé, et la bibliographie à peu près inexistante. L'usage de la non-discursivité
chez les compositeurs latino-américains a été discuté dans le passé, mais sans jamais être défini.

Cette recherche révèle les problèmes identitaires et politiques abordés par les compositeurs de cette
génération, dans le but de faire de ses trouvailles une leçon pour les nouvelles générations de
compositeurs et musiciens qui tentent de donner de la profondeur à leurs œuvres et leurs actions.
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Table of Contents

Abstract.....................................................................................................................................................ii

Résumé…………………………………………………………………………………………...……..iii

Table of Contents……………………………………………………………………………………....iv

List of Examples……………………………………………………………………………………......vi

List of Tables…………………………………………………………………………………...……...vii

Acknowledgement…………………………………………………………………………………….viii

Introduction……………………………………………………………………………………………..1

Chapter 1: Objectives…………………………………………………………………………………..5

Chapter 2: Defining Terms…………………………………………………………………………….8


2.1 Discursivity…………………………………………………………………………………..8
2.2 Non-Discursivity……………………………………………………………………………11
2.3 Categories of Non-Discursivity According to Pearsall……………………………………..14

Chapter 3: A New Approach for Analyzing Non-Discursivity in Latin-American Music……….16


3.1 Strict Repetition…………………………………………………………………………….16
3.2 Disordered Repetition……………………………………………………………………....17
3.3 Infinite Progression………………………………………………………………………....17
3.4 Hard-Edge Cut……………………………………………………………………………...18
3.5 Inhumanly Slow Movements……………………………………………………………….19
3.6 Lonely Statement…………………………………………………………………………...20
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Chapter 4: Analyses…………………………………………………………………………………...21
4.1 En abril (1996) by Graciela Paraskevaídis…………………………………………………21
4.2 Tráfego (1976) by Eduardo Bértola………………………………………………………...29
4.3 Arenas (1988) by Mariano Etkin…………………………………………………………...42

Chapter 5: The Reach of Non-Discursivity: Aesthetics and Politics.................................................60

Conclusions…………………………………………………………………………………………….64

Bibliography…………………………………………………………………………………………….x

Annex I: Audio CD…………………………………………………………………………………....xii

Annex II: Music Scores........................................................................................................................xiii


1. Graciela Paraskevaídis: En abril (1996)
2. Eduardo Bértola: Tráfego (1976)
3. Mariano Etkin: Arenas (1988)

Annex III: Additional Sources.............................................................................................................xiv


1. Coriún Aharonián “An Approach to Compositional Trends in Latin America” (1994)
2. Edward Pearsall, “Anti-Teleological Art: Articulating Meaning through Silence” (2006)
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List of Examples

Illustration 1: Beginning of En abril.......................................................................................................22

Illustration 2: Loops 14 to 16 of En abril...............................................................................................23

Illustration 3: Beginning of Graciela Paraskevaídis' En Abril.................................................................25

Illustration 4: Accumulation in the only non-looped section of Graciela Paraskevaídis' En abril..........26

Illustration 5: Beginning of Eduardo Bértola's Tráfego...........................................................................29

Illustration 6: Second system of Bértola's Tráfego. Strict repetition of a chord at irregular rhythms....30

Illustration 7: Second page of Bértola's Tráfego, including the 2nd episode (2'48'' trill) and the first
three Harmonic Resonant Zones of the 3rd episode....................................................................32

Illustration 8: The 2nd interference of Eduardo Bértola's Tráfego..........................................................39

Illustration 9: Beginning of Mariano Etkin's Arenas...............................................................................43

Illustration 10: Second system of Mariano Etkin's Arenas. Shows chords 4, 5, and 6 and the two notes
of the 2nd Repeating Zone: Low G and High Ab........................................................................44

Illustration 11 Part two, 3rd Repeating Section in Etkin's Arenas...........................................................53

Illustration 12: 4th Repeating Section of the second part of Etkin's Arenas............................................53

Illustration 13: Chords that change chromatically in the last part of Etkin's Arenas...............................58

Illustration 14: Last system of Etkin's Arenas..........................................................................................58


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List of Tables

Table 1: Classification by notes of the 14 states of the trill in Bértola's Tráfego....................................33

Table 2: The five recurring elements of the 10 Harmonic Resonant Zones in Bértola's Tráfego............35

Table 3: Materials and amount of elements in the 10 Harmonic Resonant Zones in Bértola's Tráfego..36

Table 4: Classification of notes, dynamics, attacks, registers and function of the first part of Etkin's
Arenas........................................................................................................................................49

Table 5: Elements of the second part, second Repeating Section in Etkin's Arenas................................52

Table 6: Materials of the 3rd Part (Metamorphosing) of Etkin's Arenas................................................54

Table 7: Six elements of the Third part, 2nd Metamorphosing Section of Etkin's Arenas......................56
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Acknowledgement

I would like to start by thanking my family. Without the unconditional support of my parents, the
whole enterprise of pursuing my music studies abroad would have just been impossible. There is
nothing in the world that I'll ever be able to do to pay what they have given me. I'd like to thank my
sisters for having bore my sonic dictatorship at home, and for having become my friends in the
distance.

I have to thank my piano teacher and research director, Paul Stewart, for his always positive attitude
and his understanding of my erratic rebelliousness. His constant kindness has helped me get through
hard times. He also brought back faith that I could become a better pianist.

I'd like to thank Lorraine Vaillancourt, my research co-directress, for her time, and for the artistic
relationship that is just beginning. I'm very happy to have her by my side in this last stage of my music
education.

Rodolfo Acosta lay ahead of me the possibilities of what type of artist I could be. With his faith in me,
materialized in our work we did together as part of the Ensamble CG, he made me feel empowered as a
musician and as a citizen. Alongside Beatriz Elena Martínez and Guillermo Bocanegra I've had the
most profound musical and artistic experiences of my life. The faith in them and in Daniel
Leguizamón and Ana María Romano is a reason why going back to Bogotá after my studies are done
has never blurred from my map. Can't wait to get back and work alongside with all of you.

This project of empowerment and love is sustained, from my point on view, on the generous and
engaged labour of Graciela Paraskevaídis and Coriún Aharonián. They have opened the door for a
Latin-American project in music, of which many generations of musicians will nourish. Their
inspiration is and will be fundamental in my career.

I'd like to thank my Montreal friends Elani Mejía, Laura Jordán and David Amorocho for coping with
my political and ethical researches. They accompanied me in this process, and we all discovered
wonderful things about our identities and our projects. They are the witnesses of my life in Montreal,
they have seen me change and explore many aspects of my life, and their support is fundamental.
ix

I'd like to thank the fabulous artistic exchange and friendship of Émilie Girard-Charest and Gabriel
Dufour-Laperrière. Émilie’s indefatigable hard work is exemplary to me. The musical and
philosophical exchanges with Gabriel's rigorous ideas have been to of great enlightenment for both of
us. I'm sure both of them will be artists of great importance to their society and I feel very proud to
work by their side and befriend them.

Finally I'd like to thank to everyone that bore me talking about non-discursivity in the last years. Apart
from the above mentioned musicians, Jorge Horst, Omar Corrado, alcides lanza and Alejandro Ochoa
helped me, giving me clues and unknown perspectives to the issue.
1
Introduction

As I turned the pages of the celebrated Argentine philosopher Rodolfo Kusch’s book “América
Profunda” – a book about the search for Latin-American identity – I came across a passage which
described a situation, similar to my own as I approached the subject of Non-Discursivity in Latin-
American repertoire. He says:

“For my exposition I used a style that was intentionally literary and technical at the same time, because this
was the only way to explain the inspiration that gave birth to this work. This is due to the lack of serious
precedents in this field of American1 thought. We can barely be guided by someone like Canal Feijoo,
Martínez Estrada, Carlos Astrada or Félix Schwartzmann. Others understand seriousness as a copious
bibliography, which doesn't exist for a subject like this one and, when it exists, it always leads to paths
foreign to America” 2.

Latin-America’s music is not a subject that is commonly dealt with in music schools, whether in
Canada or in Latin-America. Occasionally its popular music is approached, but the vast “Art” music
production is mostly ignored. As a rule, universities and encyclopedias consider Latin-American music
unworthy of study. Even newspapers rarely depict Latin-America’s political events or their economic
situation.

Non-Discursivity has been widely used by Latin-American composers. We can find traces of this as
early as the 1960s. Mariano Etkin’s 1966 piece called Estática-Movil I3 is a proof of this inclination.
Its title refers to processes in the piece, where the composer creates a music that inhabits the
uncomfortable limit between staticity and movement. Non-Discursivity was a generational issue,
tackled by many Latin-American composers. In fact Graciela Paraskevaídis treats the subject in one of
her essays, tracing the use of stationary forms back to Debussy and Scarlatti:

“Opposite to discursive and “developmental” music, Debussy’s music is stationary. It is a sonic state, a
being-sound and being-in-sound, a static-mobile – as it will later be in György Ligeti’s works of the 1960s
– which moves via brief motifs or independent ideas, often repeated immediately after (just as in Domenico
Scarlatti), but whose directionality is not predictable. The concept of “theme”, so beloved to tonal music
and to development, which Beethoven will bring to its maximum expression, disappears absorbed by these
structures, sometimes micro-forms of sound blocks, where repeated (obstinate) notes, the iteration of cells,
the opposition of dynamics, the use of non-traditional scales, converge in non-discursivity and generate
their own ways of existing, and contain new ways to think music.” 4
1 In this case as in any other, American will refer to the continent called America. Any reference to the country United
States of America will be referenced as US-American .
2 KUSCH, Rodolfo. América Profunda. 1st Edition, Buenos Aires, Biblos, 1999. Pg. 21. (Author’s Translation)
3 Translation: Static-Mobile I
4 PARASKEVAÍDIS, Graciela. “La corchea antidiletante” In http://www.gp-magma.net (November 15, 2011). (Author’s
translation)
2
In spite of what Paraskevaídis considers evidence of the existence of non-discursivity in European
music, this subject has not been widely approached by mainstream musicology. The reason for this
“cold-shoulder” will be partly explained in this essay: non-discursive procedures aggressively question
the Western-Capitalist worldview, as notions of progress, development, etc., are not articulated.

That is why the subject of this thesis can only be tackled with the use of a tangentially pertinent non-
Latin-American bibliography, or with the more relevant but brief Latin-American mentions of the
subject. Despite the lack of sources, what little there is has been helpful. I therefore quote in this thesis
works by US-American and French musicologists, French philosophers, and Latin-American
philosophers and musicologists. Nonetheless, the tools that I will use to analyze the subject were
largely created by myself, after a moment of inspiration. This inspiration came after 15 years of
becoming familiar with Latin-American repertoire, having listened to and performed it throughout the
Americas.

I first started listening to Latin-American repertoire when I was 15 years old. My Music Appreciation
teacher at the time, composer Ana María Romano, had recorded for me some cassettes of the music to
which we had been listening in the class. The first cassette included Guatemalan composer Joaquín
Orellana's “Humanofonía”, and Colombian composer Jacqueline Nova's “Creación de la Tierra”. Both
were fundamentally important electroacoustic pieces in the legacy of Latin-American music.

She continued recording cassettes for me, featuring the music of many cultures and styles, but nothing
made a stronger impression than when I heard Latin-American music. I remember being confused by
Luigi Nono's “Contrapunto Dialettico alla Mente”. I also remember having enjoyed Pierre Henry's
“Variations pour une porte et un soupir”, a work of lesser means and elements, that was clearer to my
spirit. I might hypothesize that what attracted me the most about Latin-American repertoire was a
similar simplicity and straightforwardness, plus its direct aggressive message: it spoke to me directly.

I didn't perform any contemporary music until I entered Los Andes University when I was 18 years old.
Since what I originally wanted to be was an electroacoustic composer, I felt I was engaged with
composers rather than with my pianist colleagues, and I offered my services to the composition
students at school in case they wanted their pieces performed. I was lucky enough to be amongst one
of the most original and engaged generation of Colombian composers. Also, I was lucky to be in a not-
very strict university, one that allowed musicians to grow their own wings without the overwhelming
3
influence of highly academic musical studies; and lucky enough to be in a university which had its eyes
set on Latin-America. During those years we had personal contact with some of the most important
composers of our continent, including Coriún Aharonián, Graciela Paraskevaídis, Conrado Silva and
Mesías Maiguashca, all guests of the university. I was educated in contemporary music with Latin-
American repertoire, and it was not until later that I learned about the music of European composers
such as Messiaen or Schönberg.

Before my arrival to Canada I had already the experience of performing as part of Colombia's most
prominent professional contemporary ensemble, Ensamble CG, and was eager to explore similar
activities in Montreal. In my first year of studies at the Conservatoire I performed in the student's
contemporary music ensembles (among which a premiere), but was not able to find a voice of my own.
The experience of making contemporary music in Montreal proved to be very different from my
Colombian experience. In Montreal, educational institutions had contemporary ensembles, and the
pieces of the composition students were performed as part of the academic activities. In order to make
a concert of contemporary music happen in Colombia, one had to have the unconditional dedication of
an activist.

It was not until my second semester of the Master's degree at the University of Montreal that I found a
name and a reason for everything that I liked. As part of the seminar “Écrits de compositeurs”, I chose
to talk about Coriún Aharonián's writings. I had only a vague idea of what he dealt with in his writings,
but I wanted to have a “Latin-American” topic. Through this research, the paths of a new, wholly-
engaged way of understanding music opened for me.

Aharonián's essays deal with the true importance of music in society. He argues cultural production
(thus, music) is a tool to maintain or lose sovereignty. He unveils the illusion of political projects that
are not sustained by equally solid cultural projects. He gives musicians a reason to understand their
importance in this world, their role in their societies. After these readings, my engagement with Latin-
American repertoire, and with music as a tool to construct the society we dream of, became
unbreakable.

The subject of this thesis is, then, a reason to deepen my knowledge of the repertoire I know, a
repertoire that has given a voice to Latin-Americans to live as Latin-Americans. It is also an excuse to
bequeath what I hope will be a teaching aid for any musician who wishes to explore this way of
4
understanding the importance of music. Great institutions may not begin talking about the Latin-
American experience of making music that I have found so valuable. But through the findings of this
research (and the conversations I have day-to-day with colleagues and friends), I hope that I will be
able to plant a seed of knowledge which will prove both instructive and useful for a more ethically-
aware approach to our way of conceiving the marvelous career we have chosen: making music.
5
Chapter 1: Objectives

The subject of this thesis concerns selected piano music of three Argentine composers born between the
years 1939 and 1943: Eduardo Bértola (1939-1996), Graciela Paraskevaídis (born 1940) and Mariano
Etkin (born 1943). They all knew each other from their youth, and are part of a same generation of
composers.

Etkin and Paraskevaídis were born in Buenos Aires. Both studied in the celebrated “Centro
Latinoamericano de Altos Estudios Musicales” of the Instituto Torcuato di Tella in the years 1965-66,
having as teachers, amongst others, Alberto Ginastera, Iannis Xenakis, Earle Brown, Maurice Le Roux
and Gerardo Gandini. Bértola, born in the state of Córdoba, in the north of Argentina, was not accepted
to study at the Di Tella Institute: in 1968 he left for Paris, where he studied with Pierre Schaffer and
Emil Leipp, and returned to Latin America in 1971. Paraskevaídis also left Argentina in 1968 to study
with a scholarship from DAAD (German Service for Academic Exchange) at the Freiburg Music
Hochschule, in Germany. Etkin also left Argentina during those years to study first in Utrecht, Holland
and at the Juilliard School of Music in New York. After their return, all three composers worked
together promoting contemporary music in Buenos Aires and the north of Argentina until around the
beginning of the military dictatorship known as the National Reorganization Process (1976-1983),
when Bértola moved to Brazil and Paraskevíadis to Uruguay. Etkin stayed in Buenos Aires, though
frequently traveled to teach at Canadian universities (McGill University in Montreal and Wilfrid
Laurier University in Waterloo). Today, Etkin still lives in Buenos Aires, Paraskevaídis in Montevideo,
and Bértola passed away in 1996 while living in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

The purpose of this essay is to analyze and compare selected piano works of these three composers,
highlighting the elements that they have in common. I'm especially concerned with one characteristic
of their compositions: the non-discursive processes and forms they use. I will later explain in detail
what I mean by this term.

Non-discursive processes and many other characteristics of Latin American contemporary music
composition were examined by the celebrated Uruguayan musicologist/composer Coriún Aharonián in
his 1994 essay “An Approach to Compositional Trends in Latin America” 5. In this essay, Aharonián

5 in World New Music Magazine, No. 4 (Cologne, October 1994) pp. 47-52.
6
discerns thirteen characteristics shared by certain Latin-American composers born between 1936 and
1964.

The full article of Aharonián can be found in Appendix III of this thesis. Its reading is fundamental to
the comprehension of Latin-American music and is strongly recommended for anyone who wishes to
acquaint themselves with the subject. For our present purposes, I have briefly summarized Aharonián’s
points as:

1. The Latin American sense of time: shorter and more concentrated that that of the
majority of the European composers.

2. Non-discursive syntax processes.

3. Non-directional expressive blocks or zones where micro-processes occur.

4. Reiterative elements and the use of non-mechanical repetitions, with ostinatos similar
to the ones used in Indigenous and Afro-American cultures.

5. Austerity in the language, in the expressive resources and the technical means.

6. Repressed violence and expressive pleasure for sound details.

7. Silence, in the sense that it ceases to be a negation, rather an affirmation loaded with
expressiveness. Silence used as an important cultural sign of Latin-America.

8. Presence of the "primitive.": avoiding rhapsodism that have an ethnocentric


perspective. Replacing them by serious conceptual research of the ways of action and
reaction, semantic behaviors and freedom in temperament.

9. An attempt to make new technologies one's own and the interaction between
metropolitan technologies and Indian and African-American legacies.

10. Breaking down the borders of “art” and “popular” music.

11. Ideological awareness.


7
12. Exploring the magic inherent in the music event.

13. An interest in cultural identity, the socio-economical context, and the consciousness
of imperialistic influence. 6

From my point of view, this article is extremely clear and lucid. Afterwards, in the same essay,
Aharonián proceeds to make a list of Latin-American repertoire that exemplify these characteristics.
All three composers, Bértola, Etkin, and Paraskevaídis, are mentioned.

In the past, I have written analyses of piano music of these three composers, always having Aharonián’s
article as a departing point. The purpose of the present work is to go beyond a mere exemplification of
his points. I would like to explore how these composers employ these characteristics. The one that
concerns me the most is No. 2, Non-Discursivity.

6 A condensed version of these characteristics is found in Spanish in HERRERA , Eduardo. Austeridad, Sintaxis No-
Discursiva y Microprocesos en la obra de Coriún Aharonián.
8
Chapter 2: Defining Terms

2.1 Discursivity

Since I will emphasize the non-discursive processes in the analyses of these three composers, it is
important to define this term. And, in order to find out what I find non-discursive about those pieces, I
will first try to define what is discursive.

My main sources are two texts. The most important is Edward Pearsall's 2006 essay Anti-Teleological
Art: Articulating Meaning through Silence, which is included in the book Approaches to Meaning in
Music, edited by the same author and Byron Almén. This essay makes major reference to authors who
had discussed non-discursive music during the 1970s and 80s: Leonard Meyer and Jonathan Kramer.
The other source is Michel Imberty's essay “Continuité et discontinuité” included in the first volume of
Jean-Jacques Nattiez's “Musiques, une encyclopédie pour le XXIème siècle”. Imberty also uses
references of Leonard Meyer, and to the semiology studies by Nattiez, as well as his own studies on the
subject.

In Pearsall’s essay, he clarifies the differences between discursive and non-discursive music:

“Discursive events in music are often associated with what Célestin Deliège has referred to as the “process-
oriented” aspects of a work. These include “melodic continuity” and thematic function”. In discursive
contexts, events follow one another in a logical manner so that events seem to lead to other events on
progressively higher and higher levels. Discursive features, then, have to do with those properties that
govern music's hierarchical organization” 7.

Likewise, Michel Imberty, in his essay “Continuité et discontinuité” argues that « le problème du
sentiment de continuité ou de discontinuité éprouvé par l'auditeur, […] est étroitement lié à l'existence
ou non d'une organisation perceptive hiérarchique plus ou moins nette des événements musicaux... »8

All authors (including those quoted in Pearsall's text: Roger Sessions, Jonathan Kramer and Leonard
Meyer) coincide with the affirmation that music is a temporary art, and that the hierarchization of the
music’s duration gives the listening experience a higher linearity.

7 In ALMEN, Byron and PEARSALL, Edward, “Approaches to Meaning in Music”, Indiana University Press,
Bloomington, Indiana, 2006, p. 41-61
8 IMBERTY, Michel, “Continuité et discontinuité” in Musiques: une encyclopédie pour le XXIème siècle. NATTIEZ,
Jean-Jacques, Actes Sud, Arles, France 2003-2007
9
What type of hierarchization are these authors talking about? What is it that they mean by the terms
“linear”, “continuity”, “progressiveness”, “logic”?

Translating the above references in my own words, what authors find “discursive”, “linear” or
“teleological” is syntactic and semantic temporary dialectical unfolding, the way in which notions,
phrases, motives follow one another, develop, and conclude. In dialectics, the meaning or sense of a
proposition is highlighted, thus hierarchized, by being opposed or countered by another proposition.
They are put into context with one another, in a conflict that tries to bring out what is “true” about each
of them, thus concluding with a clearer summed-up truth. The notions of dialectical discourse,
represented by the trilogy thesis – antithesis – synthesis, can be found everywhere in the Western
world, from the Scientific Method, to the Sonata Form. Discursivity, which is described as “logical”, is
a development of events where the totality of materials are exposed, discussed and developed, and
finally re-exposed and concluded. It parts from the belief in a coherent initial unity of topics to be
discussed and finally accepted as true. It is the method of progress, in the sense Western thought
defines it.

Two words can be highlighted from the previous paragraph: discourse and dialectics. When we refer to
these terms, we are talking about a rhetorical form of discourse that originates in written traditions. As
Pearsall states:

“Discursive features, then, have to do with those properties that govern music's hierarchical organization.
In many cases, these properties parallel those of spoken language. Indeed, similar way of constructing
music and language have led to similar ways of describing them; we frequently analyze music in terms of
phrases, statements, questions, answers, and – on a higher level – expositions and narratives, for example.”
(p. 44)

The Webster's New World Dictionary refers to discourse (from the latin dis-, from + currere, to run) as
“1. talk; conversation. 2. communication in general. 3. a formal treatment of a subject, in speech or
writing”9. Other notions of discourse do exist, but for practical reasons we will adhere to the basic
semantics notion of “written or spoken communication” 10 instead of the sociological, philosophical
sense, well represented by Michel Foucault's theories 11.
I would also like to highlight two prominent words from the previous paragraphs: logic and
development. It is always interesting to find what the dictionary has to say about these terms:

9 Webster's New World Dictionary, Concise Edition, 1966, The World Publishing Company, Toronto, Canada
10 Compact Oxford Dictionary, Thesaurus and Wordpower Guide [2001], Oxford University Press, New York
11 FOUCAULT, Michel. L'archéologie du savoir. Éditions Gallimard, 1969
10

“Develop: verb. 1. Grow or cause to grow and become more mature, advanced, or elaborate”.
“Logic: noun. 1. Reasoning conducted or assessed according to strict principles of validity. A
particular system or codification of the principles of proof and inference: Aristotelian logic. The
systematic use of symbolic and mathematical techniques to determine the forms of valid deductive
argument.”12

The definition of the verb “to develop” has highly subjective connotations. These connotations are
subject to ideological principles: What is better? What is more advanced? What is more elaborate? If
we read these words attentively, we will notice that we are talking about the principles of liberalism,
whose philosophical manifestations are French Enlightenment (also known as the Age of Reason) and
German Idealism. The notions of what we feel is logical (or true, or beautiful, for instance) are part of
our inherent ideological formation.

In the first chapter of his book “Living in the End Times”, Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek asks
“What is ideology”, later answering:

“Ideology is not constituted by abstract propositions to people's “real lives”, it is necessary to add the
unfathomable density of a lifeworld context. Ideology is not constituted by abstract propositions in
themselves, rather, ideology is itself the very texture of the lifeworld which “schematizes” the propositions,
rendering them “livable”.

“[W]hen we talk about “objective spirit” (the substance of mores) as the complex web of unwritten rules
which determine what we can say/see/do, we should complicate further Foucault's description of a
discursive episteme: “objective spirit” also and above all determines that which we know but about which
we have to talk and act as if we do not know, and that which we do not know but about which we have to
talk and act as if we do know.”13

The rules of argument of what makes something logical is part of this web of unwritten rules which are
part of today's predominating liberal ideology, the one that dictates what are progress and correctness.

To summarize what has been theorized above: I will call discursive the type of rhetorical developing
that proceeds with the logics of dialectic reasoning. By dialectics we mean the type of arguing which
presents a topic, which consequently conflicts with a counter-argument, which is then resolved in a true
idea, and is represented by the Hegelian three-part formulation Thesis – Antithesis – Synthesis. I
believe that these definitions are highly subject to ideological influence and am critical of this fact.
“[T]he assignment of events to discursive and non-discursive categories is fundamentally a dialectical
process; meaning arises through an oppositional interplay.” 14

12 Oxford American Dictionaries.


13 Žižek, Slavoj. Living in the End Times. Verso. 2010. Page 3
14 PEARSALL, Edward. “Anti-Teleological Art: Articulating Meaning through Silence” Pg. 45, In ALMEN, Byron and
PEARSALL, Edward “Approaches to Meaning in Music”, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indiana, 2006
11
2.2 Non-discursivity

Having associated discursivity with communication and semantics, as a way of hierarchizing meaning
in the logic of dialectics, one can now contrast it with what is meant by non-discursivity.

As described in Pearsall, Kramer and Meyer “associate nonlinearity on the semantic level primarily
with what they perceive as an attempt on the part of avant-garde composers to assimilate cyclical
conceptions of time characteristic of many non-European cultures. Conversely, they associate linearity
with the progress-oriented perspective of time peculiar to Western civilization” 15

The later quote, even though problematic for its essentialist approach of what a “Western” type of
discourse might be, does coincide with the above-cited text of Aharonián. Aharonián argues that there
is a way of organizing reiterative sound-cells that is related to Black African and American Indian
experiences of Latin America. He also argues that there is a different sense of time in Latin-American
music.

Pearsall takes an unfortunate step in his theory at this point. He argues that

“[w]hen connections between successive events become tenuous, music may lose some of its discursive
impact. Thus non-discursive music hypostatizes silence – or, more specifically, the active role silence plays
in spoken dialogue – inasmuch as music can continue to sound even when its discursive strength or
rhetorical unfolding falters”.

He later states that

“... I explore this idea, treating silence as an extended metaphor for non-discursiveness in order to
emphasize its opposition to discursive events in music. Just as silence implies the absence of sound, so,
too, does non-discursiveness imply the absence of form and structure.” 16

He consequently argues that “discursive events in music are those that manifest themselves primarily as
functional or purposeful transactions, whereas non-discursive events are those whose aesthetic
impression is their most prominent feature” 17. Once again we find ourselves in front of terms such as
functional and purposeful, which, from our point of view, are full of liberal ideological bias.

15 PEARSALL, Edward. “Anti-Teleological Art: Articulating Meaning through Silence” Pg. 41, In ALMEN, Byron and
PEARSALL, Edward “Approaches to Meaning in Music”, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indiana, 2006
16 Ibid
17 Ibid
12
Pearsall doesn't describe silence, though, in a negative manner. He says “non-discursive events
typically convey important, if indirect, information about a passage or composition and can therefore
intensify whatever musical or referential meaning it has. Non-discursive textures manifest themselves
mainly in terms of qualitative attributes such as timbre and intervallic saturation. […] [t]he relations
between events […] on the other hand, are de-emphasized” 18.

What is it that happens in silence? What type of silence is Pearsall talking about? He says that “[j]ust
as absolute silence is impossible to achieve, so, too, is the suspension of signification on the semantic
level.” Certainly, there are many different ways to understand the meaning of silence. These different
conceptions will consequently affect the way silence is used in music.

“As Bernard P. Dauenhauer (1980: 55) has observed, silence is intentional; it is “the positive abstinence
from employing some determinate expression.” In other words, the composer suppresses his or her voice,
thereby transforming silence into a form of expression. […] Thus, the composer continues to play an active
role, not by communicating directly but by inviting the listener to participate more fully in the creative
process.”19

Notwithstanding what he believes to be a positive approach to silence, our experience with Latin-
American non-discursive processes does not resemble that of silence. Also, the use of silence or non-
discursivity does not necessarily “imply the absence of form and structure.”

There are different conceptions of what is silence. First, there is the idea of silence being a neutral,
still, consistently static field where no sound is produced. John Cage's theories helped transcend this
theory of the absolute silence. On his 1957 essay “Experimental Music”, Cage says:

“There is no such thing as an empty space or an empty time. There is always something to see, something
to hear. In fact, try as we may to make silence, we cannot. For certain engineering purposes, it is desirable
to have as silent a situation as possible. Such a room is called and anechoic chamber, its six walls made of
special material, a room without echoes. I entered one at Harvard University several years ago and heard
two sounds, one high and one low. When I described them to the engineer in charge, he informed me that
the high one was my nervous system in operation, the low one my blood in circulation. Until I die there
will be sounds.”20

18 Ibid
19 Ibid
20 CAGE, John. Silence. The M.I.T. Press, Cambridge, MA, 1961
13
In his essay “Communication”, Cage adds:
“Is there such thing as silence?
Even if I get away from people, do I still have to listen to something?
Say I'm off in the woods, do I have to listen to a stream babbling?
Is there always something to hear, never any peace and quiet?
If my head is full of harmony, melody, and rhythm, what happens to me when the telephone rings, to my
piece [sic] and quiet, I mean?” 21

German/Brazilian composer Hans-Joachim Koellreutter also has a different conception of silence. In


the introduction of the score of his 1990 experimental piece, “Wu-Li”, Koellreutter says:

"Silence exists always and everywhere. Sounds are transitory manifestations of the subjacent silence
created by the human mind. It is not the mere absence of sound. It's packed with sound capabilities,
available to the human spirit and intellectual creativity of man. It is also monotony, high rate of
redundancy, reverberation, unpretentiousness, sketch, design, transparency, simplicity, austerity and
meditation. "

"[...] There is a universe of sound underlying all the phenomena of sound, which is beyond all sounds and
all sounding occurrences, but can not be heard nor perceived by the human perception, limited to a specific
field of frequency (16 to 16000 Hz per second approximately), seemingly the absence of sound, that is,
silence. This way, silence consists of a universe of inaudible sounds, but does not ceasing to be, ultimately,
the essence of all musical forms. " 22

All three texts define silence as a non-silent entity. Silence is full of sound, silence is not equivalent to
emptiness. But also, these texts talk about a beautiful contradiction within silence: at the same time
silence is filled with sounds and ever-changing events around or within us, silence is still, monotonous,
redundant. Silence is both perpetual change and stillness. As Christian Wolf said, “The monotony may
lie in simplicity or delicacy, strength or complexity. Complexity tends to reach a point of
neutralization: continuous change results in a certain sameness.” 23

Monotony is “lack of variety and interest; tedious repetition and routine; sameness of pitch or tone in a
sound or utterance”24. Silence cannot be judged of tediousness in a negative way. There is always the
possibility of finding interest in all sounds. John Cage said that "[w]herever we are, what we hear is
mostly noise. When we ignore it, it disturbs us. When we listen to it, we find it fascinating." 25. This
apology on noise can be easily applied on silence: if we listen to it, we’ll find it fascinating.

21 Ibid
22 KOELLREUTTER, Hans-Joachim. Wu-Li, um ensaio de música experimental. RioArte, Rio de Janeiro, 1991
(Translated by the author)
23 WOLFF, Christian. New and Electronic Music. Audience, Audience Press, Volume V, Number 4, Summer 1958, quoted
in CAGE, John. Silence. The M.I.T. Press, Cambridge, MA, 1961
24 Oxford American Dictionaries.
25 The future of Music: Credo, in CAGE, John. Silence. The M.I.T. Press, Cambridge, MA, 1961
14
2.3 Categories of Non-Discursivity according to Pearsall

Returning to Pearsall's essay, one may notice that the examples he gives for non-discursive processes
fall into the following categories:

1. Literal Repetition (a section is consecutively repeated several times, stopping the progress of
music): Vaughan Williams, Symphony No. 3, “Pastoral”, fourth movement, mm. 118-123;
Mozart, Symphony No. 40 in G Minor, first movement, mm. 72-76; Debussy, “Iberia”, third
movement, mm. 15-16.

2. Disordered Repetition (unchanging materials are constantly re-stated in varied orders).


Barbara Kolb, “Appello”, second movement; Feldman, “For Samuel Beckett”.

3. Non-distinguishable accumulation (individual lines multiply so much that they melt into one
static texture): Ligeti, “Atmospheres” mm. 23-26.

4. Non-functional harmony (in the harmonic context the pieces are composed, the harmonic
functionallity is softened) Ives, “The Unanswered Question”, mm. 1-12; Bloch, Sonata No. 1
for Violin and Piano, first movement, mm. 1-3; second movement, mm. 2-3; third movement,
mm. 225-3326.

The first two categories are defined by repetition, the second two by incomprehension.
Incomprehension, in this context, is caused by very detailed instrumental writing, where more voices
are employed than humans can distinguish. This accumulation creates only a texture that seems
static27. Since Latin-American music, as Aharonián states (and as will later be seen in the analyses of
the pieces), is based on austerity, Latin-American composers will never reach this extreme of
contrapuntal writing. Thus, this category will be useless for the present analysis and will be discarded.

Similarly, in order to have non-functional harmonies it is necessary to place oneself in a tonal


perspective, where familiarity is disrupted. These Latin-American pieces are a-tonal. Additionally,
26 Since Pearsall's essay is of such great importance as a source for my thesis, it has been included in Appendix III of this
work. Pearsall tackles the problem of Non-Discursivity direcly, using a wide base of bibliographically pertinent sources.
27 If we place different tracks of music on a 128-voice multitrack recorder, we will get something close to white noise.
15
non-functional harmony can create non-discursivity in the presentation of melodic/harmonic materials,
but without having a significant effect on form. Since the central theme of this work is non-discursive
processes in musical form, this category will also be discarded.

In addition to utilizing the two remaining categories distinguished in Pearsall's text, I wish to add a few
of my own. These will be the tools with which I shall proceed to analyze selected piano works of
Paraskevaídis, Bértola and Etkin.
16
Chapter 3: A New Approach for Analyzing Non-Discursivity in Latin-American Music

Non-discursivity can be described as a slowing down or a removal of the hierarchical relationships


between the materials of a piece. Through observation of the present Latin-American repertoire, it is
clear that there are several ways in which a composer can realize this. These categories will not be
exhaustive, for they come out of a certain repertoire that uses non-discursive processes. Non-discursive
processes are also used in other styles of music that use very different means than the ones our three
Latin-American composers use. Some pieces in the Aleatoric/Chance/Indeterminate or Minimalist
repertoire might use very different means to arrive at non-discursivity. It could even be argued that
twelve-tone music adds a level of non-discursivity in the selection of the notes that compose the
materials (in the sense that the recognition of the 12-tone row might be an impossible task for the
listener.)

Pearsall does warn us, though that “[t]he determination of what constitutes a discursive or non-
discursive event is clearly based on each individual's familiarity with stylistic conventions. […]
Musical events are not inherently linear or nonlinear, discursive or non-discursive, rhetorical or
aesthetic.”28

Non-discursivity has been observed to appear in the form of:

3.1 Strict Repetition (A A A A A A …..) or (A B C A B C A B C A B C A B C …)

Strict repetition happens when a musical element is stated consecutively in a repeated manner. A
musical element can be a single note (or event) or several notes (or events) that are repeated
successively in the same order. When something is repeated, music stays in the same place, for it
refuses to show new material: there is not even a possibility of contrast that would bring a dialectical
perspective to what has already been presented.

Nonetheless, the intensive repetition of a passage changes its perception: resonance is accumulated,
thus changing the space where the event “sounds”. The listener finds new ways of listening to the

28 PEARSALL, Edward. “Anti-Teleological Art: Articulating Meaning through Silence” Pg. 41, In ALMEN, Byron and
PEARSALL, Edward “Approaches to Meaning in Music”, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indiana, 2006
17
repeated event (the listener being incapable of listening to the repetition as if it were the first time: the
note is repeated, but the act of hearing it is always new, and has a memory of the previous statements).

3.2 Disordered Repetition (A B C C B A B C B C B C B A B C B A B A A C …)

In disordered repetitions, the elements within a section are limited, finite. They are alternated not in an
ordered fashion, but without any logical sequence: a disordered version of Strict Repetition. Even
though the texture is static, elements acquire a new meaning every time they are played, for they are
played before and after a different element every time. Additionally, there is a feeling of
destabilization, for the listener cannot know which element is going to come next, since there is neither
repetition nor logic sequence in the succession.

3.3 Infinite Progression (A B C ß π Car Heaven Blood Duck Door Toe Mary-Poppins …)

In Infinite Progression, elements are always new. Elements always seem to advance or progress. There
is no feeling of memory or re-exposition. It could also be described by the logical sequence “A B C D
E F G H I J...”, for elements are always going forward.

In progression form it might happen that an element that had already been stated in the past appears
again. In this case, this element is not acting as a re-exposition of previous material: it is rather
combining itself partially with the logical (or ilogical) sequence of a Disordered Repetition. It could
be described by the logical sequences:

(A B C ß π Car Heaven Blood Duck Door π Toe Mary-Poppins Duck…)


or
(A B C D E F G C H F I J K)

We might say that in these cases, the reappearance of a previous element does not acquire a dialectical
dimension because it does not have a role of counter argument of its preceding element. It is merely
acting as a disordered memory, like an unconscious flow of elements that come back and disappear
without taking any rhetorical steps.
18
3.4 Hard-Edge Cut

Hard-Edge Cut is a technique which is derived from the Progression Form. It consists of abruptly
juxtaposing two elements. The abruptness of this juxtaposition can be so that the following one might
suddenly interrupt the preceding element. The abrupt ending of a statement removes its dialectical
content, for it is left incomplete. Incomplete elements have a lesser dialectic capability, and are thus
non-discursive.

The Hard-Edge Cuts can be well seen in cinema, where a transition between a scene and the next can
happen without any transition. The editor merely cuts the tape at no matter which point, and pastes the
continuation onto it. Hard-Edge techniques, can also been seen in collages, where the frontier between
two elements on the canvas is the straight cut of the scissors. In collages, all elements are interrupted
and/or superimposed by each other. There is no fading or transition between their borders, but a clear
cut, an interruption, and a continuation.

Hard-Edge Cuts, because they resemble the movement of cut cinema tape, can be easily used in
electroacoustic music. The influence of cinema and electroacoustic music may also be present in piano
writing.

Hard-Edge Cut doesn't necessarily guarantee the non-discursivity of the elements that it involves. It is
possible to imagine a collage or a hard-edge cut movie whose elements have an open rhetorical-
dialectical meaning. The violence of the cut reduces, though, the dialectical discourse, which is based
on continuity of elements. Let's suppose we take any dialectical piece, such as the Chorale from
Cantata 147 by Bach, which is a totally rhetorical piece, based on continuity and the hierarchical role of
its elements. Instead of presenting the materials of the piece as the composer organized them, we cut
the recording of the work in a random manner and paste all the fragments in a new order. The result
would be that all the rhetorical expression of the piece would be completely lost and the result would
not be dialectical, or at least not in the same way that Bach intended. In this sense, Hard-Edge Cut
technics might resemble the arbitrariness of the Disordered Repetition or the Infinite Progression.
19
3.5 Inhumanly Slow Movement (A.....................................................................B)

Hard-Edge Cuts are the abrupt, even interrupted, passages from one element to the next. Inhumanly
Slow Movement is its opposite: the slow transition from one element to the next, a transition so slow
that the feeling of movement is reduced to stillness (almost). The time that it takes for that transition to
be done is so slow, that the human mind barely recognizes the sensation of movement. It is beneath the
human threshold of rhythm.

In a previous essay I wrote which dealt with the role of texture in the music of Mariano Etkin, I came to
the conclusion that the feeling of texture, be it smooth/plain or its opposite, rough/wrinkled, comes
from sensations that are outside the temporary thresholds of human perception. Humans sense
rhythmic patterns when they hear frequencies ranging from 40bpm, and up to 208bpm approximately
(roughly, the range of a metronome). Underneath the 40bpm, humans also lose the ability to
conceptualize the unity. Above 208bpm, humans start grouping the beats, unable to grasp the unity.
40bpm and 220bpm expressed in Hertz are 0,66Hz and 3,4666Hz, respectively.

Humans listen to frequencies that range from 16Hz to 16,000Hz, roughly. Above that, sound is not
perceived, below that, pitch is not discernable. Consequently, there is a threshold of human perception
between 3.4666Hz and 16Hz, where certain frequencies occur but are not recognized either as pitches
or rhythms. In my essay, I argued that it is in this range where events that we call rough/wrinkled
happen. I also argued that smooth/plain textures are the ones that have lengths lasting longer than what
humans can perceive.

The case of Inhumanly Slow Movement fits this description. If we take again a discursive piece of
classical music, such as the beginning of Beethoven's 5 th Symphony, but instead of playing those four
notes in the couple of seconds they usually take, we slow down the movement so that they last five
minutes, an hour, or several days, the rhetorical power of those notes would be totally destroyed.
20
3.6 Lonely Statement. ( A B C D C D F C D F A D #! C D A B D F C A …)

In a series of statements that are coherent within the context of each other, one incoherent statement
appears, not necessarily having a primary role, and disappears.

For example, in a documentary about the Tropical Rainforest, a 10 millisecond clip of a Formula 1 car
race suddenly interrupts the flow. The viewer might not be sure if it was a mistake or if it was a
fragment that intended to sabotage the film.

It could happen that this interrupting event might appear more than once, without ever acquiring the
dialectical weight of a counter-argument. Lonely Statements interrupt the flow of ideas, without having
necessarily reappearing later. If they do, they do not act as a re-exposition of materials.
21
Chapter 4: Analyses

We will now use the tools we have constructed to analyze how non-discursive processes are used in the
piano music of the three Argentine composers Eduardo Bértola, Mariano Etkin and Graciela
Paraskevaídis.

4.1 En abril (1996) by Graciela Paraskevaídis

Graciela Paraskevaídis' 1996 piece “En abril”29 shows several of the procedures just described in a very
succinct manner.

The piece is written in two parts, in which 35 blocks of notes are to be repeated “with evenness,
without accents, without attacks, without legato, without accelerandi, without crescendi, always pp,
and depressing the una corda pedal until the end”, according to the score's indications. The first page
(and part) makes up 19 of these blocks of notes, with the use of notes B, C#, D, E and F in the middle-
most octave of the piano (middle-C), or with silence (see loop 17). The first page ends by leaving the
five notes in resonance until it disappears. Afterwards, the G is added to this group, which is also to be
left to resonate until extinction. The second part of the piece consists of 16 more of these block loops,
all to be played under the same parameters.

All loops keep the same tempo, and the same rhythmic movement, for they are either played in eighth
notes, quarter notes or silence. The rhythmic movement is kept even throughout the piece except,
again, when there are silent loops, or when the notes are left to resonate in the middle and the end of
the piece.

Let's examine what happens both in the interior of these loops, as well as how they are interconnected
with each other.

The first of the loops repeats seventeen times the notes B and C#. The stillness is total. It is a Strict
Repetition of those two notes. The second loop is also a Strict Repetition, though this time D is played
at the same time as C#. It is played eleven times. The third loop adds E to be played at the same time
as C# and D. It is played thirteen times.
29 Translation : In April
22

Illustration 1: Beginning of En abril.

As one can see from the score, all the blocks are created through Strict Repetition. Some of them are
longer and can have a repetition range of up to 8 beats (number 25). Nonetheless, even the longer ones
have a repeated event that happens either every eighth note or every quarter note. All of them always
have a couple of eight notes revolving around each other, or a single quarter note that is played
insistently. The insistence of repetition is quite overwhelming. We can say the piece is constructed
through the juxtaposition of Strict Repetitions.

There is no interruption between the loops. They are played consecutively, as in a long chain of
movements. The loops are always repeated a certain amount of times. The amount of times a loop is
repeated is always different and irregular. The numbers of repetition of the loops are:

1st Part
17, 11, 13, 7, 9, 5, 9, 14
19, 10, 3, 6, 7, 10, 2,
3, 7, 9, 5, fermata.

2nd Part
11, 7, 13, 5, 3, 6, 9,
1, 1, 1, 5, 2, 7, 11,
3, 12, fermata

As we can see, the majority of the numbers are odd. Out of the 35 loops, 27 are odd and 7 are even.
Out of the 27 loops that are odd, 22 are prime numbers.

Finding the irregularity of the piece in the number of times a loop is repeated can be deceiving. There
are two reasons for this: first, all loops have a different length, thus, repeating 19 times a one-beat loop
23
and repeating 3 times a 7 beat loop are equal to almost the same amount of time. It would be also
interesting to find out for how many beats the same loops is going to be played, multiplying its length
by the amount of times it is played. In that sense, the different loops are played for these amounts of
beats:

1st Part
17, 11, 13, 21, 9, 10, 9, 14,
19, 20, 21, 6, 14, 10, 10,
21, 7, 18, 15, fermata

2nd Part
11, 14, 13, 5, 3, 18, 9,
4, 4, 8, 5, 12, 14, 11,
3, 24, fermata

In this case, odd numbers are still predominant though by a smaller margin: out of the 35 loops 19 are
odd repetitions and 16 are even repetitions. Now, only loops are repeated a prime number of times.

The second reason is that loops are constructed in such a way that we listen to them in a manner that
does not correspond exactly with what we see in the score. Let's look at loops 14 to 16.

Illustration 2: Loops 14 to 16 of En abril

Number 14 is made up by the single quarter note B; it is repeated ten times. Loop 15 is made up of two
'voices': the left hand keeps playing the insistent quarter note B, that is repeated five times, while the
right hand plays the eighth note upbeat of beats 1 and 5, with C#. This loops is repeated twice. Loop
number 16 keeps having the left hand playing the quarter note Bs, this time repeated seven times. The
24
right hand plays an upbeat of the eighth note of the first and the last three beats, alternating between the
previous C# and D.

What we actually listen to is:


1. B repeated 10 times
2. C# is played once in an up beat, while the B quarter note drone continues 3 more beats
3. C# is played twice, while the B quarter note continues 3 more beats
4. C# and D are played in consecutive upbeats, while the B quarter note drone continues 3 more
beats
5. C# and D are played in consecutive upbeats twice, while the B quarter note drone continues
6. for a second time in a row, C# and D are played in consecutive upbeats twice, while the B
quarter note drone continues (the same as number 5)
7. for a third time in a row, C# and D are played in consecutive upbeats twice, while the B quarter
note drone continues though this time the whole process will be abruptly interrupted after the
second 'c#', and we will pass to the next loop, which consists of 7 beats of silence.

The writing of the passage deceives or contradicts the ear. While we listen to an accumulation process
of C# played once, then twice, then C# and D, then twice and repeated for almost three times, what is
written down fits in two loops. The intermingling of the events of loops 15 and 16 are far more
complicated to the ear that what they seem be on paper.

This whole process of describing these two loops from a perceptive point of view is an example of a
Hard-Edge Cut: the whole process of non-evident accumulation of those measures is interrupted
suddenly, in the middle of the process, by silence.

In the same sense, the silent loops are not heard as a one-beat silence repeated five or seven times.
There is no beat heard during silence, so we only listen to longer or shorter silences. It could be argued
that unconsciously the listener keeps the beat in his head, and that once the silence is over, one need to
be in the same grid of beats. If not, the listener will feel that the pianist restarted the loops in an upbeat.

Now that we know that the analysis of the score can be misleading in terms of what the music is doing,
let us analyze what happens in the form of the piece, how one loop is related to the next and how we
perceive these changes.
25

Like the one described before, there are several sectors of accumulation. After a certain time of
accumulation, we are taken elsewhere, to a different repetition loop. The new loop will not necessarily
be accumulative or dissipative: it just brings us to a difference in state. That is, there is no dialectical
interplay between the alternations of loops. Abrupt changes of state happen everywhere in the piece.
Because everything is played in the continuous manner of the two eighth notes revolving around each
other, it is difficult to talk of having Hard-Edge Cuts everywhere. Certainly the passage of one loop to
the other happens without any transition: there is neither preparation nor interruption. This is the way
the composer wants the performer to play the piece.

There is a small accumulation in the first three loops. The first only alternates B and C#, while the
second one alternates B to C# plus C, and the third one alternates B to C#, D and E.

Illustration 3: Beginning of Graciela Paraskevaídis' En abril

There is also another moment of accumulation in the second part of the piece. The quarter note D is
repeated nine times. While the note is still repeated, E is played and sustained for four beats, after
which F is also played and sustained (while E is still sustained) for four more beats, and then G is also
played and sustained for eight more beats (while E and F are still sustained). D had been beating the
whole time. All this process is interrupted by silence.
26

Illustration 4: Accumulation in the only non-looped section of Graciela


Paraskevaídis' En abril

Apart from these three moments of accumulation, it is difficult to talk about a dialectical direction in
the way loops are connected with each other. After these three accumulation processes, there is either
silence or a loop that has another direction. Since there is no dynamic change in the piece, the sense of
direction that in dialectical pieces is reinforced by other elements such as phrasing and dynamics is
impossible here.

There are slight accumulations in the piece that range bigger distances. For example, the piece starts
only with two notes, grows to use three and four notes in the subsequent two loops, and after a couple
of loops where it only uses the first four initial notes, adds the last note to be stated in the first part, F.

All of the loops appear only once in the piece, with two exceptions. Loops 2 and 5, in the first part,
are the same, though played a different amount of times. In the second part, loops 20 and 33 are also
the same, and in both cases, they are played eleven times. Of course, the other loop that is repeated is
silence, which happens five times during the piece, lasting 7, 13, 3, 5 and 3 beats.

Due to the context in which the repetition of these loops happen, and of the general repetitive character
of the piece, it is very difficult to distinguish these re-statements as such. Even if the repetition were
recognizable by the ear, saying that there is a re-exposition of materials would seem wrong.

All this evidence tends to show us that the loops in the piece are organized in an Infinite Progression.
As shown by the two or three little repetitions in the piece, all elements are organized in a vague way,
which tends to have no positive direction.

At the same time, the whole first part is constructed with the same five notes, and the second part is
27
constructed with the same six notes (the previous 5 notes plus one more). The different combinations
of these notes in each of the sections make up a Disordered Repetition for each of the sections. All the
notes to be used are stated in the beginning of each section, and once they are stated, the piece goes
nowhere else, but alternates the use of these notes.

Even though the same notes are repeatedly used in each of the sections, we cannot talk about an
anarchic or statistical approach to the composition. On the contrary, we see that the materials are
organized with an inner logic, having several centers or poles of attraction between notes. In the first
part, there is a marked preference for the lowest two notes of the group, C# and especially B. B and C#
appear in all the loops of the first section (except the silent one, of course). The eighth note pair B-C#
is played consecutively in 7 out of the 19 loops of the first part (in 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 9 and 19) and is played
uninterruptedly or in slow motion in 3 loops (4, 6, 13). The pair B-C# is played as a quarter note block
in 4 loops (7, 10, 12 and 18) and the note 'b' is played as a quarter note drone in 3 loops (14, 15 and 16).

In the right hand, events also have an internal logic. The pair of revolving eighth notes D-E or E-F is
played in five of the loops. There are no revolving eighth notes that do not form the interval of a
second: there are no revolving notes comprising a third or a fourth. Sometimes revolving notes appear
separated by an eighth note silence, thus sounding every quarter note, as in loop 16. Also, the upper
three notes, D, E and F can be played as a cluster, as in loops 3 and 19.

The second part of the piece includes one additional note: G. In the second part of the piece,
relationships and polarities revolve around D, which is the only one stated in all of the loops (except for
the silent ones and the last one). All of the loops have D either alternating with another eighth note
(either C# or E), or played in quarter note clusters, or played by itself as a quarter note drone.

There is one line of progression which could be termed as the purpose itself of the piece, happening at
such a slow movement, that we could describe it as an Inhumanly Slow Movement: the passage from 5
notes in the first part to 6 notes in the second part. It is a long-term process that makes the first part
dialectically different from the second part. Unfortunately, the dialectical rhythm is too slow: the
passage from 5 to 6 notes is not a very big step that changes the piece. In spite of the change, the
perception of the piece is quite static. Additionally, the passage from 5 to 6 notes happens in a
relatively long amount of time: 5 ½ minutes. This dialectical step does not pass unnoticed, for the G is
stated separately and long enough the same time it is stated (as a resonant note), but the progress
28
between these two steps is too slow to be dialectical. Thus, 'En abril''s macro form is that of an
Inhumanly Slow Movement.

Other aspects of the piece have the character of a Strict Repetition. The dynamical staticity of the piece
is one of these characteristics: the piece happens without a single dynamic change. It is all played pp
with una corda. Rhythmic movement is also a Strict Repetition: apart from the sustained notes and
silences, rhythmic movement is constant.

I'd like to finish the analysis of this piece with a remark on the last loop of the piece. It is the only loop
of the piece that has a note longer than an eighth note on an upbeat. Every other time there has been
long notes, they occur on a downbeat. This procedure of destabilizing the rhythm is a characteristic I
have seen in other pieces of Paraskevaídis. It always happens at the end of the piece 30. After a whole
piece where the rhythm is absolutely insistent, the last section breaks this periodicity right before the
end. I've always seen this procedure as a joke, and would like to group this action as part of the non-
discursive Lonely Statements that I described at the beginning.

30 The end of the piano piece “Contra la Olvidación” is another example. The score is found in http://www.gp-magma.net
29
4.2 “Tráfego” (1976) by Eduardo Bértola

Eduardo Bértola's “Tráfego” was composed in 1976, one year after the composer had left Argentina to
live in Brazil, and one year before the composer abandoned forever the use of electroacoustics.

Typical of Bértola's language, the harmony of the piece is constructed with the exclusive use of the
intervals of second, tritone and seventh. Bértola uses these intervals obsessively throughout his
compositional corpus.

The piece could be divided into 7 episodes. Each episode is different from the previous one. Some
times of procedures are repeated, not as a way of re-statement, but because those are the musical means
that Bértola has for the construction of the piece.

The first episode begins with the forte attack of a typically Bertolian chord: D#, E, A, Bb. This chord
welds two of Bértola’s favourite chords: two tritones at a distance of a minor second. While this
resonance fades out, notes organized using solely the three above-mentioned Bertolian intervals blend
in. One can recognize that those notes gravitate around two gravity poles: the first one around the note
G and the second one around Ab. We might dare describe how these intervals are organized, keeping in
mind what we imagine Bértola's system was like:

Illustration 5: Beginning of Eduardo Bértola's Tráfego


30
We start with G. We move to F# through a minor 9 th (extension of a minor 2nd). We move to C through
a tritone. Abrupt return to G. Move to Ab through an ascending minor 9 th. Move to D through a
tritone. D comes accompanied by its minor second C#. Move back to G through a tritone. Move to
Ab again through a descending major 7 th. Move to D through a tritone. D comes accompanied by its
minor 2nd, Eb. Move to high Ab through another tritone movement. Move to A through a major 7 th
movement, accompanied by an appoggiatura of the minor 9 th of A, Bb. Move back to Ab through a
major 7th.

Thought of this way, Bértola is completely consistent in exclusively using 2 nds (especially minors),
tritones and major 7ths (especially majors).

In spite of these returns to certain tonal polarities, the feeling of the section is that of a spread out
resonance. The registers used for this section utilize all the registers from the instrument and are
spaced in the score through proportional notation, which gives the performer freedom in his rhythmical
approach.

This first episode concludes with the insistent repetition of a chord similar to the first one, minus one
note (it is made of a tritone and a minor second). Rhythmically it is also spread out, and because of the
use of the pedal, it enters the same resonant space. It is repeated several times, without any changes in
its structure. One of the chords is accented.

Illustration 6: Second system of Bértola's Tráfego. Strict repetition of a chord at irregular rhythms

In Fausto Borém's essay “O estilo musical de Eduardo Bértola em Lucípherez e outras obras: elementos
históricos, psicológicos e analíticos”31, which deals with Bértola's double-bass piece “Lucípherez”,
Borém compares the use of repeated notes in Bértola and in Edgar Varèse's music (Varèse is considered
one of Bértola's musical mentors in Borém's essay, as well as in Graciela Paraskevaídis' essay “Edgard

31 Translation: Eduardo Bértolas Musical Style in Luciperez and other works: historical, psicological and analytic
elements. In http://www.latinoamerica-musica.net (November 2nd, 2011)
31
Varèse y su relación con músicos e intelectuales latinoamericanos de su tiempo” 32) :

“It is very characteristic in both composers the procedure in which they fix a certain height or a certain
melodic interval, and they turn their attention towards rhythm, timbre, articulation or dynamic. [...]. This
procedure, [...] which “manifests the necessity of stillness, of permanence of the sound as a way to make
the sound to be heard is constructed by a sudden quickening of rhythm […] followed by pause or syncopes,
which results in an irregular rhythm or “improvised” or “random” character” 33

What this fragment evidences is a procedure typical of Bértolas music, the constant and irregular
repetition of a chord, which results in the stopping of musical time.

The first episode of the piece is thus constructed by widely different notes played irregularly through
all registers of the keyboard, followed by a chord repeated insistently though with irregular rhythm. If
we come back to our initial categories, we can determine then that the first part of the episode is an
Infinite Progression of notes, while the second is a Strict Repetition.

Both cases differ from Paraskevaídis’ example because in this case, we are only refering ourselves to
the tones (the notes) in the Progression and the Strict Repetition we describe. Paraskevaídis examples
had a constant, regular rhythm. In this case, rhythms are not “Strictly Repeated” (as “En abril”), but
rhythms belong to the order of a vague, random-like organization.

For the première of his electroacoustic piece “Dynamo” (1970) Bértola described the piece saying:

“It is about opposing dynamic moments to static moments in relationship to 'mobile-static' proportions
[sic]. The evolution of most part of the dynamic moments belongs to the order of the reiterative.
Uninterrupted pauses have an essential role, because we're trying to avoid any atmospheric sensation” 34.

According to this explanation, events that are dynamic are reiterative. Static, on the contrary, is the
state where there is no repetition. The question is what type of repetition we are talking about:
rhythmical or thematic? Is one of En abril's repeated loops static or dynamic? What about the last
fragment of the first episode of Bértola's Tráfego? Both are made up of repetition. Paraskevaídis'
piece has the repetition of the same arrangement of notes in an isorhythmic pattern. Bértola's fragment
has the exact same repeated sound, but played in a free “random-like” manner. Let's look at the

32 Translation: Edgard Varèse and his relationship with Latin-American musicians and intellectuals of his time. In
http://www.latinoamerica-musica.net (November 2nd, 2011)
33 BORÉM, Fausto. “O estilo musical de Eduardo Bértola em Lucípherez e outras obras: elementos históricos, psicológicos
e analíticos” in http://www.latinoamerica-musica.net (November 2nd, 2011) (Author's translation)
34 In PARASKEVAÍDIS, Graciela. “Eduardo Bértola: retrato del compositor argentino (1939-1996)” in
http://www.latinoamerica-musica.net (November 2nd, 2011) (Author's translation)
32
continuation of Bértola's Tráfego in order to problematize further the relationship of the static and the
dynamic.

The second episode is composed of a fff, 2 minute 48 seconds trill played in the high-register of the
piano. The trill changes 14 times the notes that compose it by adding or subtracting to the notes already
sounding. Each of the 14 states of the trill is played for 12 seconds without any changes. The intervals
that compose this trill all correspond to the intervallic constructions typical of Bértola. The first one is,
for example, the same type of chord with which the piece starts: two tritones at a minor second
distance, in this case, F, Gb, B, C. The passage from one chord to the next only adds or subtracts a new
note, adding up to the resonance that is slowly built-up, creating a sensation of slow modulation. When
a change comes, we perceive it as if the new note was probably already there, but we had not heard it
before. In fact, while the trill is unchanging, we hear modulations in the reverberation of the hall and
the piano that make them sound as non-static.

Illustration 7: Second page of Bértola's Tráfego, including the 2nd episode (2'48'' trill) and the first
three Harmonic Resonant Zones of the 3rd episode
33
There is a focal center to the notes in the trill and there are certain lines of evolution of the trill that
advance and recede. The table shows the notes in each of the 14 states of the chord. The notes that
change from one passage to the other are underlined.

Chord Left Hand Right Hand Description Name


Number notes notes
1 F, Gb B, C Bertolian chord (B) “A”
2 F, Gb F#, G# B “B”
3 F, G F#, G# C (Central chord/cluster) “C”
4 F, G, F#, G#, A C + 1 chromatic (1ch) “D”
5 E, F, G F#, G#, A 1ch + C + 1ch “E”
6 D#, E, F, G F#, G#, A, B 2ch + C + 2 ch/diatonic (d) “F”
7 F, G F#, G#, A C + 1ch “D”
8 Eb, F, G F#, G# 1d + C “G”
9 F, G F#, G# C “C”
10 F, G F# C -1 “H”
11 F, G C, F#, Tritone + (C-1) “I”
12 F, G F#, G# C “C”
13 F, G F#, G#, F C + 7th “J”
14 F, G F#, G# C “C”
Table 1: Classification by notes of the 14 states of the trill in Bértola's Tráfego.

In this table we can see that only two chords are repeated: the Central chord (a four note chromatic
cluster from F to G#) which we called “C” is played four times. The chord made up by “C” plus one
more chromatism (a five note chromatic cluster from F to A) is played twice. Chords 3 to 6
accumulate notes, acting as a growing sonority, instead of separate, unconnected chords. Starting from
7, the accumulation recedes, returning to previous chord formations in 7 and 9. Chord number 8 takes
a detour from that return, adding a lower diatonic tone. The smallest version of the trill happens in 10,
when only three notes are played. After that the Central Chord is played with two of Bértola's favourite
intervals: a lower tritone in 11 and a higher major seventh in 13, both alternated by the original chord.

We believe these chords, in spite of the constant returns to the Central chord, prove more of an erratic
movement rather than a clearly directed path. In his 1962 book “América Profunda”, Rodolfo Kusch
sets on a quest to find what is Latin-America, deepening himself in the beliefs and the way of life of
34
the Aymara and Quechua people in the high Andes. Amongst his perspectives on the differences
between the indigenous worldview and the European one, Kusch states:

“Western art, if we take the Renaissance as its greatest expression, keeps a structure based on the Golden
ratio, which doesn't converge in a center, but keeps the diverse centers available, in order to enlarge the
plastic field, offering the possibility of incorporating a bigger quantity of plastic interest centers.

From the psychological point of view, this last structure [Golden ratio] is born from the first one
[mandalic]. Mandalic art keeps a germinative center where the ego is placed, or Jung's Selbst, besieged by
dispersion zones. In this case, the thematic aims to reinforce this center to make a more solid ego (I), in
order to avoid disintegration. […] Golden ratio proportion permits the rational location of all the elements.
[…] On the contrary, in the mandalic field everything has its own symbolic location, strongly tainted of
mystical force.”35

We could say that this Center chord acts as a germinative center from where all other sonorities
emerge. The biggest accumulation happens at the beginning of the trill, thus avoiding a Golden
sectioning of direction of the fragment. This avoids a dialectical organization of events that expose,
direct themselves to conflict, and finally resolve. This avoidance of the Golden ratio happens also
throughout the structure of the piece. This trill constitutes the most intense part of the piece, but
happens near the beginning. It is also disproportionally big in comparison to the other sections of the
piece; it takes 2 minutes 48 seconds of a piece that lasts 8 minutes and 40 seconds, that is, almost one
third of the total duration.

Coming back to the trills, we can say that each one of them is composed of Strict Repetition of the
notes: a trill is basically, a repetition of notes. Bértola adds some indications in the score, underneath
the trill: “Mechanical movement, periodical, regular, automatic. Do not accentuate or vary the
intensity”. The micro-process happening is Strict Repetition. It happens in such a fast and unchanging
manner that it is both static and dynamic: an unchanging trill that does not stop its movement.

Concerning the changes between the 14 states of the trill, they belong to the order of the Infinite
Progression, which, as we described earlier, allows for materials that had previously appeared to
reappear, but without having the sense of re-exposition.

The third episode of the piece, which starts after the last note of the last trill resonates and extinguishes
from lifting the pedal, is made up of what we will call 10 Harmonic Resonance Zones. Each zone is
constructed by one or several materials (notes, chords, intervals, appoggiaturas, etc.) that are left to
resonate together, and then interrupted by cutting of the pedal. The cutting of the pedal can happen in
35 KUSCH, Rodolfo. “América Profunda”. 1st Edition, Buenos Aires, Biblos, 1999. Pg. 92 (Author's translation)
35
three different ways: 1. Lifting the pedal slowly so that resonances extinguish little by little. 2. Lifting
the pedal at a normal speed, so that the resonance is stopped, though not abruptly. 3. The pedal is
lifted “brusquely”, according to Bértola's indications. In these Harmonic Resonance Zones, some
elements are repeated, some elements are just played once. Dynamics and attacks are varied
throughout the section. Let's look at how they are constructed:

Material Description Image Number of Harmonic


ID appearances Resonance Zone
of appearance
A Minor 2nd C#, 13 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8
D. Preceded by
appoggiatura G

B High pitch C. 8 2, 4, 6, 7, 8
Preceded by
appoggiatura B

C Minor 2nd D#, 4 8,9


E. Preceded by
appoggiatura E
or appoggiatura
A

D Mayor 7th Bb, 6 8, 9, 10


A

E High pitch Ab. 2 10


Preceded by
appoggiatura
F#, G

Table 2: The five recurring elements of the 10 Harmonic Resonant Zones in Bértola's Tráfego
36
There are five materials in this section. Some of them are once presented with an appoggiatura that
never appears again.

Since we only have 5 elements to be played during 10 Harmonic Resonant Zones, it is obvious that
they are going to be repeated and restated several times. Let's take a look at how these element s are
going to be distributed among the 10 Harmonic Resonant Zones. The names of materials come from
the categories from Table 4. “App” stands for “appoggiatura”.

Harmonic Resonant Materials Used Number of Elements


Zone Number in Zone
1 A 1
2 (app) B A 3
3 AA 2
4 B AAA 4
5 (app) A A 3
6 A B A 3
7 B B B 3
8 C A (app 1)C A B D D (app 2)C 10
9 C D 2
10 (app) E D D E D 6
Table 3: Materials and amount of elements in the 10 Harmonic Resonant Zones in Bértola's Tráfego

We will, once more, focus on the micro-processes of composition, and little by little, widen the
perspective of our view to notice how non-discursive processes happen from more ample point of view.

Harmonic Resonant Zones 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, and 10 include elements that are consecutively re-stated. They
would belong to the type of Strict Repetition of which we talked in the first episode of this piece: the
note is restated, varying rhythm, attack, dynamic and length in order to create the impression of
stillness.

Even though there is not consecutive repetition in the other Resonant Harmonic Zones, the impression
of stillness is still important. For example, the first Resonant Harmonic Zone has only one note left to
resonate while the pedal is slowly lifted. The only possible movement here is that of unity. If there is
37
only one element, the only thing we can do is observe it in its stillness, for it is not going to interact
with any other elements in the section but space and resonance. It is dialectically incapable of having a
counterpart, for it is alone. It is one/ego, in the sense that Kusch described earlier: it is its own center.

When there is no repetition, the alternation of elements doesn't acquire a big dialectical force either.
They are just put together side by side, without dialectical conflict appearing. If we take together the
first seven Harmonic Resonant Zones, we discover that they only have elements A and B, plus their
respective appoggiaturas. If we organize them in a row, we would have:

A / (app)B A / A A / B A A A (app)A A / A B A / B B B

All the elements are stated and exposed in the beginning, after the first two strokes, but they are
rearranged and repeated in a random-like manner. This definitely coincides with our definition of a
Disordered Repetition.

Once we cross the 8th Harmonic Resonant Zone, three more elements enter into the picture. The
appearance of new elements doesn't shock the listener, for they are camouflaged amongst the
appoggiaturas of the previous elements. The difference with the appoggiaturas is that they only happen
once, while the three new elements end up being repeated several times. Thus, when element C
appears in Zone 8, it acts first as an appoggiatura of A. It is repeated afterwards, so as to state its
permanence. Element A is still stated a couple of times, so as to permit a transition between having as
a focal point elements A and B, to cede the priority to the new elements C and D. Zone 9 exclusively
uses C and D.

The last Harmonic Resonant Zone includes one new element, E, as if breaking the laws of how to
make a good argument. The appearance and restatement of element E in Zone 10 breaks the unity of
the whole episode. It proves that, even though it started as a Disordered Repetition, where all elements
are known but randomly restated, the section is an Infinite Progression that continues a course of itself
that goes beyond what is written in the score. It is a slowly mutating section without hierarchy or
without memory where new elements are welcome to stay for a while, or not (only be stated once, as
the appoggiaturas). We can state that the whole Episode 3 has the general form of an Infinite
Progression, but in which the micro-process of organization responds to the order of Disordered
Repetition.
38

We would still like to highlight three more characteristics of irregularity of Episode 3: the irregularity
with which the pedals are cut, the irregularity with which dynamics are organized, and the irregularity
of the length of the Harmonic Resonant Zones. Repetition is avoided in the proportion of the Zones.
They are not meant to be replicas or versions of each other. One is not supposed to know when a
Resonant Zone is going to stop or continue, because the amount of elements it allocates is always
different. Thus, the length of the Harmonic Resonant Zones responds to an Infinite Progression
dynamic, in the sense of its a-directionality. Dynamics also respond to the same principle: there is no
logical sequence to the dynamics, not a general crescendo or diminuendo, but the juxtaposing of
diverse dynamics proposes different harmonic fields. Some softer notes will just colour the Zone,
while others strongly stated will give voice to the Zone. Dynamics in this section range from ppp to
sffffz.

The different pedal cuts of the section radically affects the hierarchy of the Harmonic Resonant Zones.
Their status as statements is sabotaged by the way they are cut. The same way an oral statement
changes its rhetoric capacity if instead of being said linearly is said interrupting between or inside
words, and resonating vowels for long periods of time, the Resonant Zones lose the sense of statement
by their interruptions. It avoids, in Bértola's terms, that they acquire an “atmospheric sensation”, as we
stated earlier.

As studied before, abrupt cuts are evident in cinema. As in the beginning of Jean-Luc Godard's film
“Pierrot, Le Fou” or in Woody Allen's “Deconstructing Harry” (thus the title), scenes of different
lengths are cut abruptly, even in the middle of statement, and arranged in a new order where
temporality loses its meaning, and we are brought to a state of stillness of the situation.

As an experiment, we might try to exchange the musical materials of this episode into cinematic
materials, and see how they would interact if they were cut the way the pedal does in the section. We
would replace element A by the view of a sunset. The image slowly fades to black. Pause. In the next
scene, element B will be replaced by a little bird that swiftly crosses the camera, which again focuses
on the sunset, and fades to black. Pause. For the third scene, we see the same sunset, but from a
different point of view. The camera suddenly shuts to black. Pause. Fourth scene: a bird on the
foreground, and the sunset on the background, and zooming out. Fade to black and pause. Fifth scene
is similar to scene four. Scene six shows the sun, the bird perching itself on a branch, the sun again for
39
a short fraction of time, and a sudden cut comes again. Etc.

The sudden shuts to black, or abrupt cuts of the pedal have as a function to remove importance to
what's stated in the scene, so that the way in which it is stated gains important in itself. Since elements
are juxtaposed through silence, one to the next, the way they articulate their stillness is by the way they
are stated. This juxtaposition of stillness is interrupted in diverse ways, thus creating a Hard-Edge Cut
articulation between the elements. They happen without transition, and without rhetorical interplay
within them. They are all stated as if from anew, centered in themselves. There is a close relationship
between the Hard-Edge Cut way of statement and the oneness/selfness of the music materials. This
oneness is destroyed by development and by other dialectical interplay.

The fourth episode of the piece is the shortest, it lasts 33 seconds. Along with the second episode, we
call them the “Interference” episodes. They are composed by powerfully intense elements that have a
high frequency of repetition and dynamic. The other episodes are made of longer passages of notes
that resonate. The open cluster C#, D, D, Eb is repeated as fast as possible in three opportunities, the
first two lasting 6 seconds, and the third lasting eleven seconds. They are all interrupted with an abrupt
pedal cut, and silence is heard for long periods of three seconds. Between the second and the third
interference, a chord very similar to the first one of the piece (the Bertolian Chord, this time made by
two fourths at a minor second distance) is attacked in a dry manner. Only those two elements inhabit
episode 4.

Illustration 8: The 2nd interference of Eduardo Bértola's Tráfego

Needless to say the elements in the micro-process are constructed by Strict Repetition, and that in them
reside the contradiction of the static and the dynamic. In terms of how the section is constructed as a
whole, it is harder to say, for we have seen so little of it and it is already finished. The second elements
40
certainly play the role of a Lonely Statement. It is alone, never to appear again, extinguishes
immediately. It is the only element of the piece that doesn't resonate for some time or isn't repeated
insistently.

In order to find out what type of process the repeated interference has, we can imagine that it continues
for another line. We could imagine the repeated interference appears again, this time lasting three
seconds, or twenty. It could maybe be stated two more times in two more different lengths. Maybe
between the other two a Lonely Statement could appear, or not. If this happened, we could say that
this is a Disordered Repetition: all the elements are stated from the beginning, but they are just
rearranged in new orders that do not quite follow any logic. In this case, what is varied is the length of
the repetitions: the chord and its intensity remain immobile.

In a certain sense we could say that the asymmetry of the lengths of the episodes is non discursive. In
this sense, Episode 4, because of its restrained materials and its brievety, could act as a Lonely
Statement in the overall form of the piece.

Episode 5 is an Infinite Progression of different elements (notes, intervals, chords). Some of the
elements in the episode are repeated several times in irregular ways, thus creating a Strict Repetition in
the statement of the material, but in an Infinite Progression way of organizing its irregular rhythm. In
the dynamic plan, there is a crescendo from ppp that turns into mf, then f, ff, fff and finally sffffz. The
only exception to this directional growth of dynamics is a sffffz attack in the beginning of the Episode,
when everything else is still ppp. In the dynamic plan, this sffffz acts as a lonely statement that disrupts
the gradual crescendo.

The last episode of the piece, number 6, revolves around the note A, which is always played in and
accented mf dynamic. The note is played at irregular distances, once more having a Strict Repetition of
a note that has an Infinite Progression logic (or illogic) of organizing rhythm. Around it, diverse notes
are also played on a random-like rhythm, never to be repeated. They all belong to the Bertolian logic
of intervals, for they all, added to the repeated A, make up chromatic clusters (even if opened by an
octave or two), tritones and major sevenths. An Infinite Progression is thus superimposed with a
Strictly Repeated note.

Now that all the micro-processes of the construction of elements and the dynamic of each of the
41
episodes that compose the piece have been analyzed, we can proceed to ask ourselves what happens in
the general form of the piece. One episode follows the next, and never there is a re-exposition of any
previous material beyond the borders of each episode. Perhaps the only exception to this would be the
first chord of the piece, the lower two notes of it attacked dryly, which might be associated with the
also dryly attacked Lonely Statement of Episode 4 (the second Interference). Even though the piece
finishes in relative immobility, we can not talk of a process that takes us there for the 5 th Episode has a
highly intense repeated chord (in fact, the densest sonority of the whole piece, with 6 notes sounding at
the same time). In fact, in the last episode, there are a couple of sffffz attacked intervals that break the
stillness of the process.

The whole idea of “Episode” already proves something about the way the piece is organized. Each of
the episodes has its own logic that doesn't transfer to the other episodes. At the same time this is true,
there is no sensation of randomness in the piece, as in Post-Modern music. One episode is not
composed by a quote at a Tango or a Classical piece, in order to create contrast. The piece keeps a
sense of unity. In fact, the last two episodes do not really have an interruption point that separates
them, and are only divided by the coherent unity given by the last repeated A. Since there is no return
point in any of the episodes, we can name them “A” “B” “C” “D” “E” and “F”. Consequently, we can
say that the form of the piece is an Infinite Progression.
42
4.3 Arenas (1988) by Mariano Etkin

The piece was written after Morton Feldman's death, and it was written in his honor. The composer
talks about evoking certain sonorities similar to Feldman's, though compressed in a shorter duration of
time. In the program notes, Etkin says

“[t]he title is a reference to the idea of something that is made of very tiny components while having, at the
same time, an enormous range of variety in forms, colours and textures, never loosing the properties and
"weight" of the components. A matter of scale, as Feldman would have said. Furthermore, there is a lateral
meaning related to the sandglass: an instrument for the measurement of time.”

Looking at the score of “Arenas” from a general point of view, it is difficult to distinguish between
sections of any sort. There are sections where the repetition of materials is evident, while other do not
have repeated materials. We will part from this observation to divide the piece into Repeating Sections
and Metamorphosis Section. In spite of this classification, there is no clear difference of sections in the
piece. A closer look to the details of the piece might give a better idea of where the piece is going in its
wider form.

The first part of the piece will be a Metamorphosis zone, which will alternate three small Repeating
Sections and Metamorphosis sections. This first part starts at the beginning of the piece, and goes up
to the end of the third system of page two. Inside this first part, the three Repeating Zones are:

1st Repeating Zone: First system of page 1


2nd Repeating Zone: From the last measure of system 2 until the 5 th measure of system 3, page 1
3rd Repeating Zone: The first two systems of page 2.

In the middle of this Repeating Zones, there is Metamorphosis, which conduce from one Zone to the
next. Additionally, there might be metamorphosis inside a repetition zone. The proportion of repeating
versus metamorphosing changes throughout, making the sections of the piece tightly bound together.

The piece starts with a repetition of a pppp 4-note chord, made of minor and major seconds, played in
the middle register of the piano, and left to resonate. The uncomfortable but delicate friction of this
sonority will be found throughout the piece, and explored in many different ways. The tempo of the
piece is slow, at 54bpm, and the chords are widely spread through time. Once a chord is played, it is
left to resonate for some time.
43

Illustration 9: Beginning of Mariano Etkin's Arenas

The dynamic level at which the events are played is important: it highlights the stability of the timbre
of the piano. A loud attack has a big change in dynamic profile: the amplitude envelope has a strong
attack that decays fast and resonates for a fair amount of time. A softly played chord, on the opposite,
keeps a more stable profile, with a less steep decaying curve. There is a stronger homogeneity of the
sounds. This homogeneity will contribute to the listening of the beatings created by the tightly bound
cluster-like chord that initiates the piece, as well as other sonorities that will appear later.

This initial chord is played without change three times in a row. Nonetheless, the distance at which
they are played is irregular. Between the first one and the second one there are 6 2/5 beats. Between
the second and third, there are 6 + 2/5 + ¼ beats. Between the third repetition and the next chord there
are 6 +1/5 + ¾ beats. Between the next two there are 7 2/15 beats. The proportion of growth between
their distances is very slow. To the listener, though, the difference is barely audible.

In his essay, “Apariencia y Realidad en la música del siglo XX”36, Etkin talks about the way we
perceive intervals and harmonies, according to the register where they are produced. He states that we
only efficiently distinguish them in the middle register. Translating that experience to rhythm, he
argues that

“[t]he parameter of duration could be worked with the threshold of perceptions of how we difference
durations. This results extremely interesting when the values are far from each other. For example, in a
sequence that alternates sounds and silence, with an average value of 4 seconds to each, there will be a
tendency towards – after 30 or 40 seconds – to listen to an isochrony between all the values – or, at least, of
uncertainty – even when there are alternated augmentations and diminutions that do not exceed one-eighth,
approximately, of the average length” 37.
That way, the values:
36 Translation “Appearance and Reality in XX Century Music”
37 ETKIN, Mariano. “Apariencia y realidad en la música del siglo XX” in http://www.latinoamerica-musica.net
(September 8, 2009)
44

Will be heard as:

Just as the quote exposes, the first chord is repeated three times in this barely listenable temporal
inequality, which we experience as stable. This initial Repetition Zone starts metamorphosing in the
fourth chord, which is made out of the same notes, plus a very low pitch E. This low note compliments
the cluster-like formation of the upper chord (made out of C#, Eb, F and Gb), but adds a different
colour, changing its meaning and giving the piece a new direction. The repetition in which we thought
we were stable has been broken.

Illustration 10: Second system of Mariano Etkin's Arenas. Shows chords 4, 5, and 6 and the two notes
of the 2nd Repeating Zone: Low G and High Ab

The next chord confirms this fracture: The same notes from the initial chord are played. There are two
differences: 1. It is played staccato. 2. The lower note, C#, has been transposed to the low octave by
the side of the low E of the previous chord, and is left to resonate too. The same notes have been
played, but their new disposition has broken they idea of unity. There chord has been metamorphosed.

The sixth chord metamorphoses further the initial chord. E and Gb are played staccato two octaves
higher from the initial middle-register. F is played only one octave higher, and it's the only note left to
resonate (together with the already lingering low E and C#). Additionally, a new note joins the cluster:
G, which is played in the low register of E and C#, but is played also staccato. This measure adds
45
another chromatic note to the initial cluster: Ab. The extension of the first chord has been
chromatically extended, either by filling in its major second holes, or by adding notes on top of it. Ab
is played in the upper register, and is left to resonate.

At this point, we enter the 2nd Repeating Zone. But before continuing, we will deepen the analysis of
the first 10 measures we have already described. The beginning of the piece is filled with various
phenomena of transformation and variation. It has kept the same materials, but they have been
gradually extended and given new meaning through transposition and change of attack and dynamic.

The first way of transformation has been the way the repetition of the first chord was imperceptibly
distanced from its previous apparition. Though it is a rhythmic variation instead of a pitch change, this
type of procedure weakens the regularity of the rhythm, and it will be used along the repetitive sections
of the piece.

The second way of variation has been the gradual addition of new notes to the beginning chord (C#,
Eb, F, Gb). The fourth intervention adds an E to that chord, which fits in the middle of the four initial
notes. The sixth intervention adds a G, which extends by a high semi-tone the chord. The last note
added to the cluster is Ab, which extends the upper edge by another semi-tone. All added notes have a
chromatic relationship with the notes in the initial chord.

Dynamics have varied little in this fragment. The only significant variation was a surprise event in the
fifth intervention: the middle-register cluster was played p, instead of the initial pppp. Dynamic
variations and modulations will become more evident in the future. Up until now, this p intervention
acts as an unexpected variation that changes the dynamic profile we had had until the moment. It
wakens up the listener's ears to volume variations, so as to “avoid any atmospheric sensation”, as
Bértola said in the previous chapter.

Another change we would like to highlight is the variation in attack: the difference between sustained
notes and staccato accented notes. The listener is able to grasp the unity in the sonorities as the new
events appear, but their meaning is transformed substantially as notes linger or not. This change of
attack varies the significance of the chord, bringing new meaning to the already exposed materials.

One final type of variation that changes the meanings of chords are their transposition. We could say
46
clusters are not transposable the way tonal chords are. But we could even argue that a tonal chord
progression also changes its meaning as it changes register and disposition. A tonal cadence I – IV – II
– V7 – I will change its meaning if the notes of the chords are close together or if they are spread in a
wider register. The character will also change if, for example, the upper voice goes from the seventh of
the V7 chord to the third of the I chord, instead of going from the sensible to the tonic.

In cluster formations, the change of register of notes will also change the character. Playing the initial
notes of C#, Eb, F and Gb in any other transposition will change the expression of the chord, even if
attaching to a tone-oriented analysis we say that the notes have remained the same. Thus, the
expansion from the middle register to take up the bass and treble registers is an important form of
variation that will affect the expression of the same notes.

The piece started with a Strict Repetition of notes that was polluted by other notes, registers, attacks,
dynamics that transformed the meaning of the initial chord. As we enter the third system of the piece,
we will start a small new Repeating Zone that will comprise the last two notes of the second system:
the high-pitched Ab and the low-pitch G. The Ab will be played 4 times in Strict Repetition, while the
low G will repeat two more times after its initial staccato appearance in the second system.

Following the logic of the initial three chords, the length between the apparitions of each will be
gradually longer. The distances between the 4 Ab notes are 3 5/6 eighth notes, 5 eighth notes and 6 ½
eighth notes. The distances between the three low Gs are 9 1/3 eighth notes and 15 eighth notes.

Variations in terms of dynamic and resonance also take place. The pppp dynamic is only broken once
in the fourth apparition of the Ab, with a p. The resonant space is varied, for once the first sustained
low-G is played, three notes are played mutedly and sustained with the sostenuto pedal in order to
change the reverberant space inside the piano. Variations in the resonance will be achieved throughout
the piece by the use of the sostenuto and the sustain pedals.

This second Repetition Zone is broken at the end of the third system to continue the expansion of the
initial materials. The first metamorphosis that is going to take place is that the initial chord is played
staccato, as it was in the fifth intervention. The notes of the chord have slightly changed. It is now
composed of notes Eb, F# and G. Immediately afterwards, the high pitch Ab that had composed the
second repetitive section will be played, with a major second superposed to it, Bb. New
47
metamorphoses of the initial materials keep on happening at every new intervention, leaving behind
the memory of the original chord, but with the sensation of a dim continuity.

If we continue describing the changes taking place, we notice that the middle register chord will mutate
once more to have the notes E, F#, G, (mounting the lower note a semitone). In the high register, the
previous Ab, Bb intervention will also climb two notes, becoming A#, B and C (played an octave
lower). This chord is repeated one more time, this time accompanied by the resonant low G of the
second repetition zone.

A new event that will change the dynamic profile of the general pppp appears now: a f attack of a high
pitched E, accompanied by a pppp echo response playing E, F, as appoggiaturas. Subsequently, these
two notes are combined with the high register chord to make a new version of it: the upper B note is
lowered an octave, so that A# is now the highest note. C-note is removed and replaced by the E and F
that had just been played as appoggiaturas. While this chord resonates, the initial chord, Eb, F, Gb is
raised one octave in an open distribution where Eb is the highest note and F and Gb are together below
it. This chord resonates while the upper chord replaces the low B-note with the note that had
previously disappeared: C. This second metamorphosis section ends up with a double appearance of a
tritone C#, G in the middle register, played once more in the contrasting p dynamic, and without any
resonance. This is the end of the first par of the piece, comprising three small Repetition Zones.
Starting from this point, a part composed of consecutive Repetition Zones will start.

I would like at this point compare this constant metamorphosis of the materials of the first part of
Arenas with the third episode of Bértola “Tráfego”, the section that comprised the 10 Harmonic
Resonant Zones. I believe this method of transforming the materials, of starting up with consistent
materials that are slowly transformed and replaced, as if without memory and without the need to come
back to re-expose the original materials is similar in both pieces. There is no sense of return, of
anything attaching the listener to the original version of the materials, because there is a sense of
eternal present. What matters is the present state of the materials, and the path we have taken to arrive
to them, but there is no feeling that we need to come back. It is like setting out on a voyage. The
difference in the two pieces would be that Bértola's addition of new materials is non-transitional, they
are brought to the piece by Hard-Edge Cut techniques, while Etkin's new materials have always come
chromatically from the already exposed ones.
48
Mariano Etkin offers reflections that resemble the shape of this piece. In his essay “Alrededor del
tiempo”38, he says:

“When I was 5 or 6 years old, I used to spend the summers in the Córdoba Sierra, in Argentina. It was a
solitary place, away from the big cities, with not so high mountains. A great-uncle that loved to take me to
tour around the wooded surroundings lived there; he would mount me up a horse and we would set off to
an unknown heading – at least to me. The question that I invariably posed was “Where are we going?”; the
answer, at the beginning, was silence and a stark regard. One day he answered in annoyance: “Where are
we going?! Where are we going?! Why do you always ask the same thing? Why do you want to know
where we are going?

This childhood story seems to me fundamental of my perception of the external world. Especially with that
part of the world that has do to with geography, space, silence, what is apparently empty, the absence of
verbal answers. Also, because it incarnates for me that fascinating uncertainty that represents every
voyage.

Composing resembles to making a voyage or a journey. One doesn't know if the materials are approaching
you or if it is you that is approaching the materials. It can happen that is would seem as if the same
landscape repeated itself, especially in desert zones. In desert zones there coexists in a stupendously
transparent way the most dissimilar perceptive scales: on one side, the minuscule pebble or spider; on the
other, the volcano and the immense plateau. In the middle, almost anything. The intermediate scale, or
even, the connection between the extreme scales is oneself.” 39

This image helps us find a metaphor for the slowly moving materials of the piece, and its moments of
unstable repetition.

Returning to Bértola's “Tráfego”'s fourth episode's form, they resemble because they keep an ongoing
voyage that doesn't look back. New materials appear that interact with the old ones, until the later are
forgotten and we are in a new place. We could then argue that the non-discursive processes Etkin uses
in his piece is the alternation between Strictly Repeated events that derive into Infinite Progressions
that transform the materials.

In order to clear the ideas of repetition and metamorphosis of the first part of the piece, the table that
follows will describe in detail the tone, dynamic, register, attack metamorphosis of the 24 events in the
first page.

The left column numbers the 24 events that take place in the first part. The second column tells us in
which measure of the piece they take place. The third column shows the notes in the event (chord).
The notes in parenthesis are notes that are left to resonate from previous chords. The notes that are

38 Translation: Around Time


39 ETKIN, Mariano. Alrededor del tiempo. In http://www.latinoamerica-musica.net (September 8, 2009) (Author's
translation)
49
highlighted are new notes that have been added chromatically to the existing ones. The fourth column
shows the dynamic level of each of the chords. The fifth column tells us if the notes have been played
staccato, non-legato or have been left to resonate. The sixth column shows the register in which the
events take place. The last column states if the intervention has a relationship of Metamorphosis or
Repetition with its preceding one.

Event Measure Pitches Dynamic Attack and Register Repetition or


# Resonance changes Metamorphosis
1 1 C# Eb F Gb pppp Resonate (R) Middle (M) R
2 3 C# Eb F Gb pppp R M R
3 5 C# Eb F Gb pppp R M R
4 6 C# Eb E F Gb pppp R M + Low (L) R + M
5 7 C# Eb (E) F Gb pppp +p R+ Staccato (S) L + M R+M
6 9 (C#) (E) F Gb G pppp R+S L + High (H) M
7 9 (C#) (E) (F) Ab pppp R (L + H) H R
8 10 (C#) (E) (F) Ab pppp R (L + H) H R
9 10 (F) G pppp R (H) L R
10 11 Ab pppp Non-Legato (N) H R
11 13 Ab p N H R
12 14 G pppp N L R
13 15 Eb F# G pppp S M M
14 16 Ab Bb pppp N H M
15 16 E F# G pppp S M M
16 18 E F# G pppp S M M
17 20 C A# B pppp R H M +R
18 20 G C A# B pppp R L+H R +M
19 21 EF f + pppp Accent (A) + N H M
20 22 B E F A# pppp R H M
21 24 (E) (F) (A#) Eb F Gb pppp R H M
22 24 (Eb) (E) (F) C pppp R H M
23 25 (Eb) (E) (F) (C) C# G p N M M+R
24 25 (Eb) (E) (F) (C) C# G p N M R
Table 4: Classification of notes, dynamics, attacks, registers and function of the first part of Etkin's
Arenas
50
In the first column we can see how new chromatisms are added to the original chord. We can still
notice that in spite of all the register transformations that these notes have, there is a certain polarity
around the notes of the beginning (C# Eb F Gb), which are still at the end (C# Eb E F)

The second part of the piece starts at second page, and goes up to the second system of the fourth page.
In this second part, the roles of Repeating and Metamorphosed zones change their hierarchies: the
basis of this part will be repetition. It is made of four repeated zones. The passage from one Repeating
Zone to the next can happen either by the metamorphosing of materials, or by the abrupt change of
“looped” materials.

In the second part, the four Repeating Zones are:


1st Repeating Zone: First three systems of page 2.
2nd Repeating Zone: Last two systems of page 2 and first system of page 3.
3rd Repeating Zone: Systems 2 and 3, plus the first 3 measures of system 4, in page 3.
4th Repeating Zone: From the 4th measure, system 4, page 3, up to the end of the first system of page 4.

The materials of the first Repeating Zone of this Part are still part of the chromatic evolution that has
taken place since the beginning of the piece. It takes up from the high-register cluster that was left
resonating at the end of the last metamorphosis: C, Eb, E, F. The way it is contaminated with new
tones responds to the chromatic enlargement that happened in the first page. This first Repeating Zone
has 13 events.

The cluster C, Eb, E, F is played twice, exactly as left from the previous page. Of course, irregular
lengths of time separate these interventions. It is repeated three more times, though with a variation:
C is played f, while the rest of the cluster is still played pppp.

The sixth event also includes metamorphosing: The lower note C is lowered one octave. It is now
played pppp too, but as an appoggiatura of the upper notes. The upper notes remain the same, but are
added a chromatic contaminant: C#. The seventh event is a lonely C#, the new note, played pppp in
the middle register as an appoggiatura of no other note.

Events 8 and 9 are the f attack of the C note that appeared on the first two events mixed to the whole
cluster, and that was highlighted in events 3 through 5 by playing it f. This time it is isolated and
51
played f twice. These two events include a resonant field by depressing the sustain pedal at the same
time the note is played.

The last four events, 10 through 13, are a combination of events 1 and 7: the middle register C# is
played as an appoggiatura of the initial cluster C Eb E F. They are repeated 4 times, though the last
three have a resonance field that is added by the inclusion of the sustain pedal.

The second Repeating Section of the second part breaks completely and radically with the tone polarity
that had evolved until now. It is composed of elements differentiated in three registers of the piano:
high, middle and low. Because the section starts with the repetition of the low register element
exclusively, the break with the previous section, that had exposed most of its elements in the high
register, is absolute. Additionally, for the first time in the piece, all pedals are cut and no long notes are
sustained, cutting all resonating notes.

The lower register elements are the notes A and G played at a distance of a 7 th. This interval is repeated
at irregular rhythms 7 times. Several variations in the attack of this interval will take place, in order to
destabilize the sensation of permanence, accenting the eternal mutation of the elements. The lower
note, A, is always played shorter that the upper one. This gives a textural sensation to the attack of
these two notes, for the attack of the note A is so short, its duration is barely audible. The fourth time it
is repeated, instead of being a note half the length of the upper note, it is just an appoggiatura. The
fifth and sixth times, it is again a note half the length of the G (a sixteenth note versus and eighth note),
but the pedal is depressed and depressed exactly at the same time of the lower note, so as to give a
whole other sensation to the same gesture. The seventh time it is played, it is the upper note that
becomes an appoggiatura of the lower note. The upper note is G#.

The middle register element of this section is the cluster G, G#, Bb, B. It is played four times, but
lingers on as an element to the third repeated section, where it is played eight more times. It is always
played pppp. In the second section its length varies from one repetition to the next, while in the third
section, it always lasts the same amount of time: a dotted eighth note.

The high register element of this section is the descending 10th interval A, F. It is only played two
times, at slightly different rhythms.
52
These three elements are played in a certain rhythmic irregularity. They are not alternated regularly,
for the lower-register element is played six times before the high register element is played for the first
time. The 13 elements in the section are alternated in the sequence described in the following table.

Event # 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
Register
High ✓ ✓
Middle ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓
Low ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓
Table 5: Elements of the second part, second Repeating Section in Etkin's Arenas

The distance between these events is irregular. They are all played pppp.

Three different processes of exposition of materials happen in this Repeated section. First of all, there
is a Strict Repetition. The first six events are the same interval, played again and again, changing the
duration of the lower note, or its resonance, but nonetheless, without changes. The distances between
the attacks are also irregular, but the chord is stable.

In order to add the middle- and high-pitched elements of this repeated section, the section goes through
a very small process of Infinite Progression, as these new elements appear as if out of nowhere. After
they are presented, there is a random-like alternation of all three elements. This could be considered as
a Disordered Repetition. Three different micro-processes intervene in this small section in the way the
materials are exposed.

The third Repeating Section derives from the second repeated section. They share the middle-register
cluster G, G#, Bb, B. The high-register element disappears, and the low-register A, G is replaced by
the notes F#, F, separated by almost two octaves. These two elements are repeated eight times. They
are always alternated one after the other in the same rhythm, though the distances between the 8 events
have a very slight variation of time, one that is almost imperceptible.
53

Illustration 11 Part two, 3rd Repeating Section in Etkin's Arenas

This element is a Strict Repetition of the same event. Apart from the variation given from the slight
change of rhythm and duration of these elements, one other change consists in removing the sostenuto
pedal in the last two interventions. This changes the reverberation of the piano, for there are no
sustained resonant notes.

The third Repeating section of this part of the piece is also a Strict Repetition. Two F#, separated by
three octaves, are played and sustained at an equal distance of time in 16 opportunities. All of them are
played at the same dynamic, pppp sempre, without any pedal. The only change happens rhythmically.
The first eight times, the note is played in the second sixteenth note of the 3/8 measure of the section.
Starting from repetition 9, the note will be played on the third thirty-second-note of the measure, on
32nd note later. This change is almost imperceptible for the ear of the public, but it nevertheless
changes the intention of the performer.

Illustration 12: 4th Repeating Section of the second part of Etkin's Arenas

The second part of the piece ends with this fourth Repeated Section. It ends with a deceiving chord,
rather than the 16th repetition of the F#s. It is composed by an openly disposed cluster, with notes G#,
A and Bb. A is played, nevertheless, 4 octaves below the other two notes. We enter a new
metamorphosis part, where the materials are going to mutate in a faster way, and with barely any Strict
Repetitions of material. Strict Repetition fragments start appearing gradually by the end of the part.
The connections between the material here are much more difficult to find than in the first part, where
54
new notes joined the already stated ones by extending the starting chord with upper and lower
chromatisms. In this case, materials are not repeated, and one chord always differentiates itself from
the next. The following table takes a look at the first 12 elements of the section, before any evident
Strict Repetitions start. Only three of the chords, number 3, 7 and 10, are consecutively repeated
twice:
# Picture Notes # Picture Notes
1 G# A Bb 7 A B C C# D

2 A B Eb C 8 BC

3 A# C 9 G A Bb

4 ABC 10 FE

5 F# G G# Bb B 11 Eb

6 F# G# Bb B C 12 GABC

Table 3: Materials of the 3rd Part (Metamorphosing) of Etkin's Arenas


55

A little bit of the logic of chromatic extension has survived in this section. Some chords are put
together by the use of the neighboring tones of the precedent chord. Most of the intervals used in the
construction of these elements are minor and major seconds, and tritones. We could say that the first
and the second chord are both based on the same lower note, A, and that the second one merely gives a
new colour to the first chords. We could also say how chords 2 to 6 have the same upper note and deal
with the same register of the piano, presenting metamorphosing sonorities of the highest octave.

Starting from chord 7 there is a big break in the register of the section. Instead of high-pitched chords
that extend themselves upward, we go to the lower register of the chords, and the addition of new notes
will happen downwards. Chords 7 to 11 seem to be constructed by adding chromatisms to the lower
edge of chord 7: the new chords are constructed in the limits of the previous chord.

For the way this part is always exposing new materials that either metamorphoses the previous
statement, or either radically difference themselves from it, we will argue this section is once more an
Infinite Progression of chords. Nonetheless, the section is fragmented in two by a Hard-Edge Cut that
happens between chords 6 and 7. The exploration of the upper register is suddenly quit, as if one had
lost interest, to start researching the lower register. There is no warning or preparation for this
interruption. A silence of 4 eighth notes (after the pedal has been lifted) stands between these two
registers.

The end of the 3rd Part of the piece, which is until now had been based on metamorphosis, finishes with
repetitions and alternation of a few elements. Elements 10 and 11 are repeated once each. A high pitch
Bb is played afterwards, as a 13th new elements, but this note, plus a very low A will be the matter of a
small Repeating section.

D and Bb will be repeated 5 consecutive times, creating a new short Strict Repetition section. They are
repeated at different distances, and the chord always lasting different durations. Because the last note
before this Strict Repetition start is a low Eb that has been sustained with the sostenuto pedal, every
statement of the repeated D will crash with the slowly diminishing Eb. The beatings of this low minor
second will be audible.
56
The attacks of these 5 events always happen at a different point of the measure: sometimes in the
second eighth note of a beat, sometimes in the second triplet of a beat, or in the third or fifth quintuplet
of a beat. This change in the moment of attack will not only affect the way the chords are attacked, but
it will give the section an air of hesitation. This type of hesitant attack is achieved more easily by this
swapping of attacking points that by the simple but nonetheless inexpressiveness of adding an
expression indication in the section of “hesitantly” for example.

Six new elements are stated before the next repeated section. This new six elements also have a very
fast metamorphosing speed, just as in the second metamorphosing section. The six elements are
exposed in the following table:
# Picture Notes # Picture Notes
1 CDAB 4 A Eb B

2 (x2) E F Bb 5 Db

3 E F Bb + 6 F
C Eb Gb B D

Table 4: Six elements of the Third part, 2nd Metamorphosing Section of Etkin's Arenas

Out of these elements, number 1 is restated two more times in the middle of chords 4 and 5. We can
also notice that element 5 is a tone lower from element 11 from the previous section, and thus similar
in structure and role (a single lower note).

It is also interesting to note that element 3 is the densest sonority we have had in the piece until this
57
moment, consisting of 8 notes at the same time. Until now, most attacks had oscillated between 2 and
4 notes, with some exceptional 6 notes played at the same time

Because of its non-repetitiveness and its constant progression towards new materials, we can say this
section is another Infinite Progression, all materials always advancing to give new perspectives,
without ever returning to previously stated materials, as if without memory.

We now enter the Fourth part of the piece, which is a Strict Repetition. It will be the last Strict
Repetition of Arenas. As in other parts of the piece, the materials are made of an open chromatic
cluster: C, B and Bb. This is the only moment in the piece where the rhythm of the repetition is
absolutely strict. The same rhythm is stated 10 times. There is an interruption of this flow in the
middle of the 6th and 7th repetitions. One measure is left empty, so that the next repetition of the note
happens after double the waiting time. The whole repetition happens at the same dynamic level, pppp.
Notes are attacked and lifted in a clear pattern that highlights the texture of the notes.

On the following section take place the most radical dynamics and rhythms of the piece. Most of the
piece has been written with a pulsation in quarter and in eighth notes. Only briefly, in the Third
Repeating Section of the Second Part of the piece, there was a sector of measures where 5/16 and 4/16
were alternated constantly. Because the flow is repetitive, the counting in 16 th notes is not very
notorious. This section will be the only one where the count is done at the sixteenth note, and the
rhythms will be constantly changing, as in most of the Infinite Progression sections of the piece.

The section starts with chords stated one after the other one, almost as an appoggiatura, in 5
opportunities. The rhythmic relation between the two attacks remains the same, except for the fourth
repetition, where instead of being at a distance of a 32 nd note, they are at a distant of a 32 nd triplet note.
The change is subtle, consistent with the rhythmical variations that have taken place all over the piece,
in a research of a certain type of awkwardness in the play.

The loudest chord of the piece takes place after this repetition. It is indicated ffff possibile. It is
followed by three different pppp notes in the high register, and once more a ff note in the middle
register.

This section ends with chords played pppp in the lower register rapidly metamorphosing, by
58
chromatically adding and modifying one note at a time. This section contains a paradoxical sensation:
since all the notes are so close together, it is difficult to distinguish between them. Since only one note
changes at a time, the changes of sonority of the chord are almost imperceptible. One is not
completely sure if it is a repetition, or if there is change between all the changes. Finally the listener
realizes that the sounds have been slowly modulating, as if only the subsoil was moving, but the
surface remained the same. In spite of this static contradiction, all the chords are different, and every
time there is a different chord, there is a sensation of movement to a different direction. It is an Infinite
Progression section.

Illustration 13: Chords that change chromatically in the last part of Etkin's Arenas

The piece finishes with a same chord repeated three times, and every time it is repeated, there is an
alternation of a high-pitched note. At every step, the high pitch note goes one tone higher. The rhythm
of this section is stable, as in the last Strict Repetition, but the notes are not strictly repeated: the high-
pitched one changes.

Illustration 14: Last system of Etkin's Arenas

It may be inappropriate to talk about sections in Arenas by Etkin. The author has made efforts to avoid
all type of barriers, and to create a constant flow. Even when there is a sudden register change, the
sense of continuity never abandons the movement of the music. In all the sections of what we called
Metamorphosis, which followed Infinite Progression logic, there were repeated events, sometimes
59
consecutively, sometimes alternated with other events. The level of change and permanence, of
difference and repetition, varies all along the place.

The piece is composed of several parts, which alternate the relevance of their repeated of their
metamorphosing elements. The overall impression of the piece is that it sets on a direction, but it
doesn't go back. The general form of the piece is an Infinite Progression. There are no re-expositions
or any type of return to previous materials. In the microform, the piece is constructed by Strict
Repetitions of materials, or by adding new materials to the already exposed ones. The new materials
sometimes have a chromatic relationship to the ones that had been previously stated, but sometimes
they are radically different. The microform uses also Infinite Progression.
60
Chapter 5: The reach of non-discursivity: aesthetics and politics

Up until now we have considered some sources, which somehow tackled the problem of non-
discursivity in music, so as to create a system of our own to analyze Latin-American repertoire.
Afterwards, we have proceeded to use this new system to analyze the use of non-discursive processes
in piano pieces by Graciela Paraskevaídis, Eduardo Bértola and Mariano Etkin. We have found that all
of them use the different types of repetition and a-directional progressions that we described at the
beginning of this work.

We are convinced that there is an effective use of non- or a-discursive processes in these pieces. This
non-discursivity is not only a method of the composer to construct his materials, but it is also a way to
give an anti-teleological directionality (a-directionality) to the pieces. The listener is confronted with
works that openly ask him not to expect a developmental argument. The pieces humbly stay in the
same place for some periods of time, or take small steps into unpredictable directions.

What is the importance of non-discursivity in these pieces? What is it they are trying to convey? What
is the role of non-discursive processes? What are they escaping from, and what are they proposing?

The categories we created as tools can be divided into two large groups: Processes of repetition, and
processes of dispersion. The repetition processes include Strict Repetition and Disordered Repetition.
The first one refuses movement, with the constant re-stating of the same materials, either at a constant,
periodical rhythm (as in Paraskevaídis' piece) or through irregular rhythmical appearances of the
repeated materials (as in Bértola and Etkin).

Processes of dispersion highlight the difference of the elements, a difference that doesn't act as
contradiction or opposition of elements, but that rather conveys an a-directional and fragmentary
movement. These processes are reflected in the Infinite Progressions that advance purposelessly, in the
abrupt juxtaposition of elements through Hard-Edge Cuts or in the introduction of foreign and
inconsequential elements that do not develop (Lonely Statement).

In his book “Difference et Répétition”, French philosopher Gilles Deleuze proceeds to analyze the
concepts of repetition and difference. He argues that repetition has nothing to do with laws and
61
generalities. A law, either a scientific one created to conglomerate diverse phenomena under only one
explanation, or a legal one created to assemble diverse human actions under only one perspective, are
not real repetitions of an event. They are seen as repetitions as long as we ignore all the multiple
factors that are present in those situations – taking the individual as merely a performer of actions,
deprived of his motivations, his unconsciousness, etc. That is, there is an aggression on the events that
live under that law: they are deprived of a part of themselves, they are desecrated. In that sense,
Deleuze argues that

“[s]i la répétition est possible, elle est du miracle plutôt que de la loi. Elle est contre la loi: contra la forme
semblable et le contenu équivalent de la loi. Si la répétition peut être trouvée, même dans la nature, c'est au
nom d'une puissance qui s'affirme contre la loi, qui travaille sous les lois, peut-être supérieure aux lois. Si
la répétition existe, elle exprime à la fois une singularité contre le général, une universalité contre le
particulier, un remarquable contre contre l'ordinaire, une instantanéité contre la variation, une éternité
contre la permanence. À tous égards, la répétition, c'est la transgression. Elle met en question la loi, elle
en dénonce le caractère nominal ou général, au profit d'une réalité plus profonde et plus artiste” 40

On the other hand, he argues that difference has nothing to do with the concepts of contradiction or
opposition. Deleuze stands against Hegel's association of difference as contradiction: pure opposition.
The Hegelian binary relation of difference and sameness sets difference on the side of the negative.
“La différence doit sortir de sa caverne, et cesser d'être un monstre[…]”41

Deleuze's project, though different in purposes and motivations, tries to escape dialectical knowledge.
And by dialectics, we mean the counterpoising of elements that question each other for the purpose to
find a new, higher truth to them. Without the contradiction, a differential element cannot have this
role. The notions of progress are not approached if the difference between elements is not a
dialectical/oppositional one, but merely differential. The notions of law and generality, achievements
of science and liberalism, are not repetitions either. Repetition is a liberating activity.

At the beginning of Kierkegaard's “Repetition”, he recounts how “[w]hen the Eleatics denied motion,
Diogenes, as everyone knows, came forward as an opponent. He literally did come forward, because
he did not say a word, but merely paced back and forth a few times, thereby assuming that he had
sufficiently refuted them”42. In the same way, Latin-American composers have barely put forward
Strict Repetitions of materials, which juxtaposed result in Infinite Progressions as a way to oppose – or

40 DELEUZE, Gilles. Différence et répétition. Presses Universitaires de France, 1968. Pg. 9


41 DELEUZE, Gilles. Différence et répétition. Presses Universitaires de France, 1968. Pg. 45
42 KIERKEGAARD, Sören. Repetition. Edited and Translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong, Princeton
University Press, New Jersey, 1983
62
even better – not work with the notions of progress and development. There is nowhere to go, there is
no better future ahead of us, there is no elevating mission that we can believe in. The notions of
progress and how they have been historically applied have profoundly disappointed these composers,
and there is no urge to associate with those concepts or ideas.

Both Latin-American composers and Deleuze feel the need to escape western dialectics. And they are
not the only ones. Deleuze shows us how:

“ Roussel ou Péguy pourraient revendiquer sa formule: « La répétition est un procédé de style bien
autrement énergique et moins fatigant que l'antithèse, et aussi bien plus propre à renouveler un sujet »
(L'opposition universelle, Alcan, 1897, p. 119). Dans la répétition, Tarde voyait une idée bien française; il
est vrai que Kierkegaard y voyait un concept bien danois. Ils veulent dire qu'elle fonde une tout autre
dialectique que celle de Hegel.” 43

The motivations for Latin-Americans, and French/Danish philosophers to escape dialectics are
different. Rodolfo Kusch, the above-quoted philosopher, also undertakes the understanding the
ontological identity of Americans. He needed to find tools to understand what is it that made him feel
different from a European, in spite of his being of European descent, and being as cultivated in Western
culture as any other European. He penetrates the popular culture of the Aymara and Quechua people to
find this answer.

“The deductions one can make out of this idea [the difference between mandalic/germinative art and
western/Golden proportion art] can be infinite. It implies the difference between a culture that receives
qualities in passivity and doesn't find resolution in front of them, as it is reflected in Quechua grammar; and
a culture that constructs its predicate as essential, that is, it subordinates the subject to a superior and
technical order, as it happens in western logics.” 44.

The deductions that Kusch makes out of his observations are enormous. He says Quechua's
relationship with their god, manifested through nature (rain, lightning, etc), is replaced in the European
with a god that has only presence through morality and inquisition institutions. He also argues that this
direct relationship with nature in Quechuas is replaced by the creation of an artificial habitat that has
clear, human-made rules to replace the randomness of nature: the city.

Kusch argues, then, that there is a metaphysical difference between the Westerner and the Quechua. It
is these other components of Latin-American culture that the contemporary composers of this
generation search. And it is highly possible that the use of non-discursive processes in the music of

43 DELEUZE, Gilles. Différence et répétition. Presses Universitaire de France, 1968. Pg. 39


44 KUSCH, Rodolfo. América Profunda. 1st Edition, Buenos Aires, Biblos, 1999. Page 93
63
Paraskevaídis, Etkin and Bértola acts as a refuge against the constant update that Latin-America (as a
region that was colonized to extend the European worldview) has to do aesthetically (and
economically, technologically, etc.) every couple of years to follow the tracks of their aesthetic (and
economical, technological, etc) colonizers. The use of the Latin-American experience didn't reduce
itself, in the generation of these three composers, to the use of folkloric materials to be introduced in
the European musical models, such as the symphony or the symphonic poem. This time the Latin-
American experience was the basis of creating a new aesthetic model that would distance itself from
the European one. It would be done not only by not using the technics that were imported from the
metropolis, but also, by applying processes of non-discursivity that in their logic contradict the
concepts of development, progress and so on. It can be said that they act as counter-models to the ones
imposed by Europe.
64
Conclusions

In her essay “Las venas sonoras de América Latina” 45, Paraskevaídis confirms this:

In Latin America we have been educated to be dependent on models, that is, to obediently consume and
imitate them – be it cultural, musical, weapons, cosmetological or dietetic –, but not to invent them or
choose them. We have been convinced that everything comes from elsewhere, even if it has been timely
subtracted from ourselves and presented back to us with seasonings or overseas elaboration: the aphrodisiac
American chocolate is elaborated in the plutocratic Switzerland as the best in the world; the humble
American potato is the base of the dairy diet of the powerful Germany.

In this context, the creator has had to opt between staying at the service of these models or trying to
liberate/get rid of them, between staying sheltered by what is known, or defying its hegemony by trying to
create counter-models.” 46

Graciela Paraskevaídis, Eduardo Bértola and Mariano Etkin belong to a generation of composers that
struggled to have a voice of their own, free from the strong influence of the cultural metropolis, but at
the same time, informed and communicating with the entire world. The list of characteristics described
by Aharonián, quoted at the beginning of this essay, are the landmark of this struggle. They summon
up the awareness of time and place that these composers went through, in order to create an Artistic
Model that they could call their own. This Artistic Model doesn't appear artificially, but appears
through the listening of their surroundings. As good musicians, they had good enough ear not only to
listen to the tones in the scale, but also to the sounds of their cities and their countrysides, the sounds of
popular and “art” music, the sound of past and present, the sounds of white, black and indigenous. The
independent Artistic Model is not the objective itself, but rather, the consequence of living as a
conscious, attentive cultural producer.

Composers are cultural producers. They, as well as all musicians, are in charge of listening to our
society, so that they can shape it in the future, so that they trace new ways and new possibilities. Art
and music are a part of culture. But the extent of culture is wider and uncontrollable. It takes paths
that neither the Music Industry or the Contemporary Music Composer can predict. The only thing they
can do is have a vision of what they want from their society, know which are the values that they would
like the future generations to have. Then, they listen and act.

45 Translation: The sounding Veins of Latin America. It is a play on word based of the title of Eduardo Galeano's
celebrated book “The Open Veins of Latin America”.
46 PARASKEVAÍDIS, Graciela. Las venas sonoras de América Latina. In www.gp-magma.net (November 13, 2011)
65
From my point of view, the generation of these three composers was successful in their
accomplishments. Some young Latin-American young students today still finish their undergraduate
studies in their respective countries and feel that they have to go to Paris to study at the IRCAM or at
the Conservatoire Superieur de Musique de Paris, or to a British or German or US-American university
so that they can become real composers, and learn the newest compositional tendencies, have the
utmost resources to compose and be performed. But some others go to Argentina and to Uruguay and
to Bolivia. Or they simply stay where they are, with their ears and eyes open to their surrounding
society and to the world. And they learn how to make music with what is around them, communicating
to the public that lives in their countries. Latin-American composers have the alternative of proudly
being Latin-Americans.

This issue translates into many other spheres of life. Every decision we take associates us with certain
tendencies and separates us from others. It is through these choices that we decide, finally, who we
want to be, and what is it that we expect about the future. So this thesis highlights the determinations
taken by a generation of composers in order to achieve a musical product that touched beyond sound,
but that was historically, politically conscious. It portrays a highly ethical attitude towards music.

We are supposed to live in a post-ideological society. I personally do not believe there is such thing. I
think post-ideological philosophies are highly ideological: they promote the homogenizing
globalization some people fear, and they admit the reality of Western-life (and whatever it is able to
absorb in its way) as the only reality.

In the past I have been asked whether I think art (or music) should be political, or should have any
political conscious statements. Today, my answer to that question is: “No. Art doesn't need to be
political. Art IS political, just as is every piece of furniture in our houses, every single webpage or
software on any computer, just as every law of justice and every corner of a building or city. The
political is a dimension where the authority and power relationship between different events is taken
into account.

What is, then, the importance of writing an essay on three Latin-American composers' piano music? It
is an opportunity to learn how not be an epigone artist, and how not to be a peripheral culture. Cultural
products, amongst which we find “artistic products”, will only continue to make sense if they are able
to transmit an updated real message to their listeners. It is the responsibility of the artist to choose the
66
degree and type of engagement of this message.

As a performer I have made it my duty to channel this type of messages. My engagement with Latin-
American repertoire is beyond a mere dissemination project. I'm interested in the political importance
of the messages inherent to all music. I find exemplary the way the Latin-American repertoire has
adapted and bloomed within Latin-American society, without the need of great musical enterprises and
budgets. I'm astounded by its cultural relevance.

The struggles these composers face are an example for ALL composers and musicians to learn the
extent of the importance of their roles in society. The same way other repertoires have showed us
many important and interesting aspects about music, Latin-American repertoire has a fundamental
message to teach to musicians. The reason why Latin-American repertoire should be studied and heard
is that it has successfully liberated itself from its chains that held it subject to colonial influence. And it
is a task of all of us to know to what extent we are colonizers and to what extent we are colonized: that
is, our target as avant-garde creators of music is to be fully conscious of our present situation. Without
this conscience, we might be sowing seeds in the wind. Or for someone else.
x
Bibliography

AHARONIÁN, Coriún. An Approach to Compositional Trends in Latin America. World New Music
Magazine, No. 4, Cologne, October 1994

BORÉM, Fausto. O estilo musical de Eduardo Bértola em Lucípherez e outras obras: elementos
históricos, psicológicos e analíticos in http://www.latinoamerica-musica.net

CAGE, John. Silence. The M.I.T. Press, Cambridge, MA, 1961

Compact Oxford Dictionary, Thesaurus and Wordpower Guide, Oxford University Press, New York,
2001

DELEUZE, Gilles. Différence et répétition. Presses Universitaires de France, 1968.

ETKIN, Mariano. Apariencia y realidad en la música del siglo XX in http://www.latinoamerica-


musica.net

ETKIN, Mariano. Alrededor del tiempo in http://www.latinoamerica-musica.net

FOUCAULT, Michel. L'archéologie du savoir. Éditions Gallimard, 1969

HERRERA , Eduardo. Austeridad, Sintaxis No-Discursiva y Microprocesos en la obra de Coriún


Aharonián.

IMBERTY, Michel. Continuité et discontinuité, in NATTIEZ, Jean-Jacques. Musiques: une


encyclopédie pour le XXIe siècle, Actes Sud, Arles, France 2003-2007

KIERKEGAARD, Sören. Repetition. Edited and Translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong,
Princeton University Press, New Jersey, 1983
xi
KOELLREUTTER, Hans-Joachim. Wu-Li, um ensaio de música experimental. RioArte, Rio de
Janeiro, 1991

KUSCH, Rodolfo. América Profunda. 1st Edition, Buenos Aires, Biblos, 1999.

Oxford American Dictionaries.

PARASKEVAÍDIS, Graciela. La corchea antidiletante in http://www.gp-magma.net

PARASKEVAÍDIS, Graciela. Eduardo Bértola: retrato del compositor argentino (1939-1996) in


http://www.latinoamerica-musica.net

PARASKEVAÍDIS, Graciela. Las venas sonoras de América Latina in www.gp-magma.net

PEARSALL, Edward. Anti-Teleological Art: Articulating Meaning through Silence. In ALMEN,


Byron and PEARSALL, Edward “Approaches to Meaning in Music”, Indiana University Press,
Bloomington Indiana, 2006,

Webster's New World Dictionary, Concise Edition, The World Publishing Company, Toronto, Canada,
1966

Žižek, Slavoj. Living in the End Times. Verso, London/New York, 2010
xii
Annex I: Audio CD

Daniel Áñez García, piano

Track 1: Graciela Paraskevaídis: En abril (1996)


Recorded live in Sala Otto de Greiff, Bogotá, Colombia
on July 7, 2009

Track 2: Eduardo Bértola: Tráfego (1976)


Recorded live in Sala Zitarrosa, Montevideo, Uruguay
on August 4, 2010

Track 3: Mariano Etkin: Arenas (1988)


Recorded live in Salle Claude-Champagne, Montréal, Canada
on April 12, 2011
x ii
Annex II: Music Scores

1. Graciela Paraskevaídis: En abril (1996)

2. Eduardo Bértola: Tráfego (1976)

3. Mariano Etkin: Arenas (1988)


xi
Annex III: Additional Sources

1. Coriún Aharonián “An Approach to Compositional Trends in Latin America” (1994)

2. Edward Pearsall, “Anti-Teleological Art: Articulating Meaning through Silence” (2006),


An Approach to Compositional Trends in Latin America
Aharonian, Coriun, 1940-

Leonardo Music Journal, Volume 10, 2000, pp. 3-5 (Article)

Published by The MIT Press

For additional information about this article


http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/lmj/summary/v010/10.1aharonian.html

Access Provided by University of Montreal at 11/24/11 6:17AM GMT


S S
P OE
O R I G I N S E RC
C IT
I GI

An Approach to Compositional A IO
L NN
S

Trends in Latin America


A B S T R A C T

Coriún Aharonián A ny attempt to theorize


about Latin American composition
will necessarily involve a prejudg-
ment of which composers to con-
sider. In addition the context of a
colonial system of cultural trans-
mission should not be ignored.
METHODOLOGICAL HESITATIONS THE CONTEXT This context makes it important to
evaluate a composer’s significance
Is it possible to generalize about the composers of Latin We are in a world cultural struc- in terms of his or her distinctive-
America? It is obvious that any kind of theorizing on creative ture of a colonial nature. Within ness in the light of metropolitan
situations implies taking sides on which compositions and this structure—which we cannot composers and compositions. A
authors are significant. I would like to make it clear that asep- change just by individual will or number of characteristic trends
can be seen in the works of com-
sis is impossible here. I can only determine trends, currents, from one day to the next, and
posers who meet these criteria, in-
lines, coincidences, starting from a group of materials that I which we cannot ignore following cluding a distinctive sense of time;
consider representative of what has been composed in Latin the ostrich’s technique—there are use of nondiscursive, reiterative
American countries. But my opinion presumes inclusions and pre-established geopolitical roles processes; austerity; violence; the
exclusions. Every historical moment presents creators that are and socioculturally conditioned breach of technological and cul-
tural boundaries; and an interest in
more or less active, more or less daring, more or less avant- behaviors. In art music, the mod- cultural identity.
garde, and also creators that are more or less conservative. It els are produced by the imperial
does not seem appropriate to determine trends according to metropolis—I speak here of me-
the latter criteria; and it is not easy to arrive at solid conclu- tropolis in the sense of an area of
sions about the former. centralized political and economic power—which expects that
Although a statistical study would allow for all composers to the societies inside the colonial system limit themselves to con-
be included, it would pose other problems concerning the suming regularly renewed models, or eventually reproducing
election of subjects, such as the establishment of quantitative them, with an unavoidable delay (a delay that, as we can con-
thresholds: Are authors of less than so many works to be in- firm throughout the Third World, can be not just of weeks or
cluded in the study? Is it enough to have premiered one piece months but of many decades). “It is essential to take into ac-
to be included? Which physical places are valid sites for a first count,” wrote Mariano Etkin in 1972 [1], “that Latin American
performance to be considered and which are not? Is it neces- ‘art’ music—but for few exceptions which confirm the rule—
sary to have a piece premiered or is it enough that the piece only in this last decade is beginning to stop being a reflection
has been composed? of what is known as the European ‘great tradition.’”
A non-statistical study is then unavoidably relative and un- Ergo, the only way of being oneself in a society depending on
avoidably prejudiced, since it is supported by the opinions of those metropolitan models is to try to live the creative act in
the scholar on what is most significant and who the most rel- such a way that it can generate cultural countermodels (and
evant young composers are, and also because of the limited specifically, in our case, creating countermodels in the field of
information about what is happening in the arts in our broad new art music). That is also why recognition outside a region’s
and long continent. It is most important to state this clearly borders is not a warranty of real historical value, which can be
in order to avoid eventual hypocrisies and fruitless, Byzan- defended from an adequate perspective in 50 or 100 years.
tine discussions.
Anyway, it is useful to begin with a global base of informa-
tion, out of which we can select reference personalities. Such AND THEN?
global information is hardly to be imagined in its magnitude: Returning to the methodological question posed at the begin-
An incomplete list of 300 names, among them a good number ning, I consider it important to clearly state that I will consider
of internationally known composers. Acting as a dialectical as examples composers and compositions (obviously includ-
mirror, international appreciation can be one of the possible
measurements.
It is undoubtedly necessary to establish a perspective that Coriún Aharonián (composer, musicologist), Casilla de correo 1328, U-11000
Montevideo, Uruguay. E-mail: <graco@adinet.com.uy>.
is adequately comprehensive: first, at a Latin American
This article was previously published in World New Music Magazine, No. 4 (Cologne, Oc-
level, then on a world scale. To have a good perspective re- tober 1994) pp. 47–52. It is based on several sources: a paper read at a panel on new
quires keeping a proper distance from the object. Even this techniques in Latin American music creation during the VI Encontro Anual da
ANPPOM (Rio de Janeiro, 1993), published in Pauta, No. 46, (Mexico City, April–June
is not always enough. International recognition may be mis- 1993), and on two previous texts approaching the same subject: a lecture at the I
leading, so there must be space left for other consider- Simpósio Internacional de Compositores, São Bernardo do Campo, Brazil, 1977 (pub-
lished in Oesterreichische Musik Zeitschrift 37, No. 8 [Vienna, February 1982]), and a sec-
ations, which should also be discussed. This is, then, only ond lecture at the First Encontro Internacional de Música Nova, Curitíba, Brazil, 1992.
Translated by Graciela Paraskevaídis.
one of the measurements.

© World New Music Magazine LEONARDO MUSIC JOURNAL, Vol. 10, pp. 3–5, 2000 3
O
R
I
G ing only those at a sufficient technical • Tulipanes negros (1990) by the ten appears as a quality of tenderness,
I
N level) that present, under the limited Argentinean Cecilia Villanueva warmth, hypersensibility, delicacy, refine-
S
possibilities of our perspective, particu- (1964–). ment, as sheer expressive pleasure for
lar and distinct personal features vis-à-vis sound details.
composers and compositions of metro- 7. Silence. Silence is one of the most
politan countries. That “international POSSIBLE TRENDS important conquests of the contempo-
recognition” discussed above can be one We could say that, among the observable rary composer, who has gradually be-
of the possible measurements, as long as trends, there are some that can be consid- come less afraid of the sound vacuum,
we consider it a dialectical mirror. ered characteristic of Latin America, and who has succeeded in understanding
If we establish a generous parameter others that are shared by or shareable that the expressive process in music is
of 60 years to define a trend and cau- with other cultural areas. A comparative not a moving sound mass that breathes
tiously stop our list at the lower thresh- study could be useful in the future. from time to time, but a large space
old of 30, we might perhaps include the Assuming that the chosen examples where volumes exist not only by them-
following composers and compositions are really representative, we can proceed selves but also because of the space
as necessary references: now to point at those observable trends: around them, where silence ceases to be
• Austeras (1975/1977) by the Argen- 1. The Latin American sense of time. a negation to become an affirmation—
tinean Oscar Bazán (1936–) It is apparently different from the Euro- that is, a sound space loaded with expres-
• La casa sin sosiego (1991) by the pean one. The statistical observation of siveness. In Latin America this conquest
Argentinean Gerardo Gandini pieces composed in past decades in the has a particularly important meaning as
(1936–) two continents allows us to conclude as a a cultural symbol.
• Creación de la tierra (1972) or Omaggio working hypothesis—as suggested 25 8. Presence of the “primitive.” The up-
a Catullus (1974) by the Colombian years ago by Gerardo Gandini [2]—that dating in relation to the metropolitan
Jacqueline Nova (1936–1975) the psychological time of the Latin models has made it possible for the Latin
• Imágenes de una historia en redondo American composer is shorter and more American composer to re-pose the ques-
(1980) or Evocación profunda y tras- concentrated than that of his average tion of his cultural truth and of his expres-
laciones de una marimba (1984) by the European colleague. sive needs beyond an amiable exoticism
Guatemalan Joaquín Orellana 2. Non-discursive process of music where often in the past he had searched
(1937–) pieces. We can prove that a high percent- for his cultural identity. The “primitive” is
• Trópicos (1975); Tramos (1975); or La age of pieces apply an a-discursive or non- no longer a decorative rhapsodism with
visión de los vencidos (1978) by the discursive syntax, within which the chain- an ethnocentric vision (popular melody
Argentinean-Brazilian Eduardo Bértola ing of sound cells in a permanent process harmonized with chords and accompa-
(1939–) of development—a typical feature of the nied by piano or orchestra or—later on—
• Todavía no (1979) or Sendas (1992) European tradition—is replaced with a Indian recording accompanied by elec-
by the Argentinean-Uruguayan Gra- structure of expressive zones. tronic “blips”), but serious conceptual
ciela Paraskevaídis (1940–) 3. Expressive blocks. Within this a-dis- research, ways of action and reaction, se-
• Música ritual (1971/1974); Caminos cursive syntactic approach, we observe mantic behaviors, freedom in tempera-
de cornisa (1983); or Arenas (1987) by many examples of structure based pre- ment and—in short—non-European ap-
the Argentinean Mariano Etkin cisely on a-discursive non-directional proaches. (We can also refer here to the
(1943–) blocks, within which microprocesses oc- convergences the composer will find in
• Canto del alba (1979); Reflejos de la cur. the Aguisimbian and American Indian
noche (1984); or Responsorio in memo- 4. Reiterative elements. Those micro- contributions.)
riam Rodolfo Halffter (1988) by the processes are often the reiteration of 9. An attempt to make new technolo-
Mexican Mario Lavista (1943–) sound cells—that is, a non-mechanical gies one’s own. The expressive search
• eua’on (1981) by the Mexican Julio repetition subtly enriched by ostinato el- will lead several composers to different
Estrada (1943–) ements—an idiom common to Ameri- ways of feedback between the techno-
• Música de la calle (1980) or Urbani- can Indian cultures as well as Agui- logical tour and the interest in the In-
zación (1985) by the Puerto Rican simbian (Black African) ones, both dian and Aguisimbian, be it in the use of
William Ortiz (1947–) confluent in the ethnic and cultural experiences related to acoustical behav-
• Seco, fantasmal y vertiginoso (1986) by mestization of the Americas. iors or to non-European instrumental
the Chilean Eduardo Cáceres (1955–) 5. Austerity. We can talk of austerity (or techniques or in the re-invention of mu-
• La ciudad (1980); Tríptica (1986); or of a kind of “divestment”) as a constant sical instruments. “If an electronic syn-
Cantos de tierra (1990) by the Bolivian mark in many of the relevant Latin Ameri- thesizer does not have a nationality, the
Cergio Prudencio (1955–) can compositions of the last decades—a person who handles it does,” says Mario
• La danza inmóvil II (1988/1991) by sought-for austerity as far as the language, Lavista [3].
the Uruguayan Fernando Condon the expressive resources and the technical 10. Breaking through the borders.
(1955–) media are concerned. And also as far as The search for such a re-statement of
• Do lado do dedo (1986) by the Brazil- an aesthetics of the “poor” and/or a tech- music language is leading to a gradual
ian Chico Mello (1957–) nology of the “poor” are concerned, breach of the dichotomy between “art”
• Prostituta americana (1983) or sought for by several composers. music and “popular” music or meso-
Organismos (1987) by the Brazilian 6. Violence and a liking for the “little music (following Carlos Vega’s terminol-
Tato Taborda Júnior (1960–) things.” Violence is often a violence with- ogy), a dichotomy peculiar to the Euro-
• Midimambo (1992) by the Brazilian out shouts or yells or with a smothered pean culture. The communication
Tim Rescala (1961–) scream. A liking for the “little things” of- concerns of the composer of art music

4 Aharonián, An Approach to Compositional Trends in Latin America


O
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I
leads him to attempt a “direct” language, tity. “One has to be always aware . . . of References and Notes G
I
and the concerns of the composer of the imperialistic penetration,” proclaims 1. Mariano Etkin, “Reflexiones sobre la música de
N
S
popular music to break through the Mario Lavista [5]. The composer, writes vanguardia en América Latina,” La Opinión
commercial circle lead him to formal Joaquín Orellana [6], “will thus start no- (Buenos Aires, 16 January 1972).

findings which are very close to those of ticing that what is really singing are the 2. In his lessons at the Centro Latinoamericano de
his art music colleagues. In fact, several infinite environmental voices,” and he Altos Estudios Musicales, Instituto T. Di Tella,
Buenos Aires.
of the trends enumerated here are com- specifies moreover, “sound-social situa-
mon to both areas, the “art” one and the tion conditions, the environmental 3. Mario Lavista, “En el ambiente de la renovación
creadora de los lenguajes artísticos,” Boletín de
“popular” (or mesomusical) one. We sound, sound-psychological state and Música de Casa de las Américas, No. 66 (La Habana,
could also add to this point: while the characteristic timbres.” “Music is a result September–October 1977).
young generation of 2 decades ago had of its environment, [it] is experience 4. See Etkin [1].
not yet succeeded in simultaneously us- which has become sound,” writes Will-
5. See Lavista [3].
ing both the “art” and “popular” lan- iam Ortiz [7]. “The materialisation of
guages (although several of its members the experience varies according to the 6. Joaquín Orellana, “Hacia un lenguaje propio de
Latinoamérica en música actual,” Alero, Third pe-
were also interested in the “other” field, composer’s environment and socio-eco- riod, No. 24 (Guatemala City, May–June 1977).
or studied it, or collaborated with it, or nomic awareness.” In general, this atti-
7. William Ortiz, “Du-wop and Dialectic,” Perspec-
just walked between one and the other), tude is sustained, though in different tives of New Music 26, No. 1 (New York, 1988).
several members of the young genera- ways by different composers, by the
8. “To what revolution does Silvio Rodríguez be-
tion of 1994—not very many yet—have young people of the 1980s and the long, if we consider him from the harmonic point
been able to develop a simultaneous cre- 1990s. The continent’s rich popular mu- of view?” Jorge Lazaroff asks bitterly (Asamblea
[Montevideo], 6 December 1984): “to the Cuban
ative work in and with both languages. sic will be another ingredient of the ut- Revolution or to the French Revolution?” And, in a
11. Ideological awareness. An appar- most importance in this search. later article (“Pensando mientras Silvio,” Brecha
ently deeper ideological awareness is ap- [Montevideo], 18 December 1987), he writes: “Till
some years ago, the artists that became an attrac-
parent in the young Latin American tion of the multitudes (I refer only to those who
composers of the past 2 decades, a POSSIBLE GENERATIONAL have left an artistic and social alternative proposal,
deeper one than in their metropolitan DIFFERENCES a counterproposal), had some infallible and neces-
sary features: in general, they belonged to the artis-
contemporary colleagues. For instance, The above recognized trends have been tic avant-garde, were on the top of the wave; their
minimalism is in the north mainly a me- found in general terms and in the last 2 product became a breaking point, went against the
established models, broke through forbidden barri-
chanically repetitive movement, a regres- decades among Latin American compos- ers, and continuously proposed, invented and
sive, neo-reactionary and, even, often a ers who are today 30 to 60 years old. again proposed new forms; each recording, each
fascistic one. Whereas in the south, the recital, each lyric meant new sensations, meetings,
Only one generational salient difference findings: the main ‘thing’ was precisely that of the
works that could qualify as minimalist should perhaps be pointed out in rela- findings. . . . Is it perhaps that in the last fifty years
show a profile that fights against the tion to fighting spirit: the young compos- too many things have already been ‘discovered’ and
listener’s passivity through an economy now the moment has come to chew them, to re-situ-
ers of 1974 were on a war footing, ate them, to settle them down? Or is it that the mu-
of means, that multiplies the expressive whereas the young composers of 1994 do sical 20th century has resigned its revolutionary
potential of sound resources, of a reit- not seem to be particularly interested in character in the face of superior forces? Or is there
any other reason for it?”
erative (non-mechanical) structuring, of fighting for their positions and seem to
a concern for the timbral and the tex- avoid any kind of parricide, complying 9. Mariano Etkin, “Aquí y ahora,” paper read at the
Simposium de Compositores Argentinos during the
tural. Disquieting music rather than with a pacifist co-existence (of styles, lan- Segundas Jornadas de Música del Siglo XX,
sleep-inducing music. guages, proposals) with those who were Córdoba, Argentina, 27–31 August 1984.
12. Magic. The Latin American com- young in 1974.
poser seems to be particularly interested It is often said that the creative drive
in exploring the magic inherent in the gave way in the 1980s in the art music
music event. In the words of Mariano field as well as, perhaps, in popular mu- Coriún Aharonián is an Uruguayan composer
Etkin reflecting discussions during the sic [8]. “The absence of risk in the works and musicologist born in 1940. In 1966, with
First Latin American Course for Con- is even more worrying in the case of the Ariel Martinez and Conrado Silva, he founded
temporary Music [4], this refers to “go- young generation,” observes Mariano Nucleo Música Nueva. He was a co-founder in
ing deeper and rediscovering the lost vis- Etkin [9], who points at “the lack of in- 1971 of Cursos Latinoamericanos de Música
ceral and magic function of music.” terest in exploring the limits, not to Contemporanea and served as its executive sec-
13. Identity. The young generation of speak of the absence of compositions retary for 17 years. Aharonián has written and
the 1970s adds to the updating of the that work with the limits themselves.” If lectured extensively on contemporary music in
metropolis (and this is related to point 8 this were true, wouldn’t it be very seri- Latin America.
above) an interest on marking—in an ous? And if this were really true, why did
intelligent way—factors of cultural iden- it happen?

Aharonián, An Approach to Compositional Trends in Latin America 5

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