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Reilly Spitzfaden – Resonances

Reilly Spitzfaden’s work Resonances is an interesting exploration of instrumental tone and gesture, a cat-and-mouse game of imitation.  From the program notes, it becomes clear that each instrument’s first gesture, typically idiomatic to that instrument, is closely mimicked by the other instruments as best they can, until a cacophony or other conclusion.  Thus the “resonance” of one instrument resonates with and through the others:

“In this piece, groups of instruments (percussion/piano, winds, and strings) initiate gestures based around a quality of resonance characteristic to that group. The other instruments take on these characteristics as they inexactly replicate the original gesture.”

The score can be found here.

There is also a YouTube video of the “live” score with its recording!

Since we have a scrolling score, one can see the notation as it is played.  Therefore, hearing the score in one’s head (“mind’s ear”) becomes much easier.

I would like to do something different in this post.  Instead of lecturing on what the piece is, analyzing it, and telling you what to learn from it, I am asking you to listen to the piece on the YouTube link above, and ask yourself these questions.  Ask more than these, of course, so that you can understand the piece better and gain a personal perspective on it.

  1. How is this piece similar and different to a theme and variations?
  2. What role does microtonality play as pertinent to the concept of the piece?
  3. What resonance is being referenced at the beginning of each section?
  4. How would this work be different if this piece were concerned with “dissonances,” i.e. gestures that are not idiomatic or resonant with each instrument?
  5. Are there any “dissonances” in this piece?
  6. What type of ensemble is this (it is a typical one)?  What “baggage” is associated with that ensemble?  How does this piece refresh this ensemble type, and push it forward?
  7. What does the recurring gesture of cresc. to a loud dynamic, with space afterwards, achieve in this piece?  What is its purpose?  How does it relate to the concept?
  8. What is the relationship between tuning and rhythm in this piece?  Are they similar or different in function?
  9. Why are there beams over rests particularly in this piece?
  10. In what ways is the conductor essential, and in what ways is the conductor obsolete in this piece?

Bonus question: If you didn’t know the program note, nor had seen the YouTube video, what would you think the piece is about?  How would this have differed if you had seen it live at its premiere (still no program note or other viewing)?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.  Please do give this post a like and a share if you enjoyed it!