Versions with further processings would need to wait for the sound installation at Østre and as part of the concert in Håkonshallen.
It was central for the project that the composers first became involved in the work on the Ars Nova late medieval repertoire, then we would increasingly intervene and bring the ensemble into the field of new experimental music. For the first two years, Barnabé Janin was a mentor for Ensemble Currentes in improvisation of Ars Nova counterpoint. The ensemble found consonances over a plain chant line, generally but not strictly avoiding parallel fifths and octaves, and made agreements to avoid dissonance, or find ways out of dissonance trouble treating tones as arpeggiatura. Sharps are normally not notated in Ars Nova repertoire. The musicians need to agree on where to use the typical cadence with double leading notes; sharps pointing towards the fifth and the octave (except for phrygian cadence). This cadence has for me been the sound of Ars Nova.
The first concert in out final concert series, "Mouvance I: Mass" presented a medieval mass consisting of existing compositions and materials developed through the workshops, within Ars Nova style. Any intervention by the living composers should be subtle. Jostein Gundersen suggested recording a reading of the mass text.
An open fifth, cadence, and the initial "Ky" of the mass text are elements loaded with associations. We would only need a split second of a Kyrie fifth for it to stick in memory over vague microtonal and timbral elements. Many composers have used the mass text through history. Brian Ferneyhough noted it's independence towards any personal language.
«It should perhaps be explained that the choice of text had less to do with statements of faith than a feeling that the Mass ceremonial itself is a culturally integral monument, both historically and formally. As such, it has managed to withstand unscathed the efforts of composers of many periods to bend it to their individual musical ends. This may be taken as something of a back-handed compliment I suppose, but the task was undertaken in a spirit of profound respect on my part. It was a rather effective method, apart from any other considerations, of attacking the problem of identity which less culturally resilient sources might have left largely open.» 1
This is a typical Ars Nova cadence.
We tried to avoid a strong, theatrical and rhetoric performance of the text through the following challenges.
- Whisper the text slowly, stretch out sounds and enjoy their sound qualities rather than their meanings.
- Whisper the text very quickly.
- Burst out in sudden single voiced syllables, separated by a silence of expectation. Who will dare waiting the longest?
The whispers and outburst could easily blend into abstract ambiences. Collages for the "Mass" concert had minimal digital treatments, versions were spatialized and superposed to form a choir or much more than 3 singers.
Rather than getting a resolution, the microtonal leading notes are left hanging. I may well etablish my own rules for a microtonal language. Semitones are strongly associated with tonal leading notes, 1/4-tones, 3/4-tones and whole tones much less so. At the first open fifth, fidel 1 adds 'b flat', which is a semitone away from the 'a', but the 'a quarter flat' disturbs this relation. The 1/4-tone and 3/4-tone intervals make the semitone less problematic. The middle leading note chord contains as many 1/4-tone dissonances as possible.
I must admit an inspiration from Luigi Nono in this short first fragment. After a long and quiet sound, steps of contrast in duration and dynamics, a short and loud sound creates a surprise effect, while the rhythms make it hard to predict.
Nono used a princible of thickening clear starting points by microtones, in "A Carlo Scarpa" by intricate patterns of 1/16 tone deviations from the tones c and e flat, the initials of the architect Carlo Scarpa. In "Prometeo", there is a similar microtonal distortion from chords built on fifths or abstracted quotations. 2
The opening measures of Matthias Spahlinger's orchestra work "Passage/Paysage" 3 is based on the opening chords of Beethovens "Eroica" symphony, with microtonal distortions and rhythmic deviations. The quotation has been blurred.
My thickening of the cadence is related to these already existing strategies of thickening harmony by microtones, and blurring rhythms.