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Gunther Schuller

Publisher: AMP

Consequents (1969)
Publisher
Associated Music Publishers Inc
Category
Orchestra
Sub Category
Large Orchestra
Year Composed
1969
Duration
17 Minutes
Programme Note
Gunther Schuller Consequents (1969)
Composer Note:

The work is dedicated to Frank Brieff and the New Haven Symphony Orchestra.

In many years of composing I have never ceased to be fascinated by the nature of inspiration and the process by which a creative artist is able to say at a given moment: this decision, this choice is final and inevitable. The creation of a composition is made out of hundreds of such “final and inevitable” decisions. But how does the composer know the choice is final? Talent, knowledge of one’s craft and hard work are not the whole answer, and to what extent deeply embedded, complex intuitive processes enter into such “decisions” remains one of the wondrous mysteries of creation.

But the nagging suspicion lingers, that occasionally a choice may not really have been “final” and the question arises whether there were not some alternatives left unexplored. In Consequents I have worked with this idea of following up certain decisions with alternate choices. That is to say, a certain phrase or musical thought in the 1st movement which moved in a certain direction and had certain “Consequents,” would be taken up again in, let us say, the 4th movement and this time move in a different direction with totally different “Consequents.” Although inherently a variation principle, this procedure differs from orthodox variation techniques in that it does not vary the original material as much as it points it in a different direction. Moreover, the subject which is carried is not a theme or primary musical thought, as in the traditional concept of variation, but may be some incidental secondary material, hardly noticed in its first appearance, but now taken up again as a new generating idea. Thus an intricate network of subtle relationships is developed between the four movements of the work, and the listener may find himself suddenly rehearing something previously stated in a different context, like some strange dream-like memory.

Another characteristic of the work — one which is developed in a variety of ways — is the element of contrast. Very agitated sections — little explosions as it were — are constantly contrasted with very quiet and substantial passages. Timbral and registral differences are used to emphasize these contrasts, thus, for example, this idea first exposed in the 1st movement reappears in a more complex form in the 3rd movement in which two sustained solo violins constantly surface through otherwise complex texture, acting as little points of composure and simplicity in a basically restless movement.

The 2nd movement has a three-part ABA form in which the B Section is mostly a “controlled improvisation” by the orchestra. Notes, rhythms, dynamics are indicated, but the exact rendition is determines by the individual players within the general frame provided by the conductor.

—Gunther Schuller

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