Christian Wolff: Lines / Accompaniments
Liner Notes   Cat. No. NWCRL357     Release Date: 2012-10-15
Nathan Rubin and Thomas Halpin, violins; Nancy Ellis, viola; Judiyaba, cello; Frederic Rzewski, piano

Lines, for string quartet or possibly other and larger combinations of string instruments, was commissioned by Hans Otte for North German Radio (Bremen) and written early in 1972. The composition began with the desire to find new string sonorities and with a formal notion related to the actual lines of the (four) individual strings of each instrument and the lines described as a sound passes from one of the (four) instruments to another. Retuning the four instruments' individual strings — so that sixteen different pitches become available on their open strings — underscores the line of each string. The players are spaced far apart in performance to help show the lines of sound between them. The score first specifies exactly the connections of these lines (say, from viola to first violin to cello) but their speed of movement (and certain aspects of articulation, dynamics, etc.) is determined by the players in the course of playing. Thus, for example, viola lets her sound go when she wishes, at which point the violin must pick it up immediately, holds it as desired, lets it go for the cello to pick up, and so forth. Next the players individually draw their material freely from more distinctly characterized bits of music (which are repeatable, as is all the material in the score). Here coordination is free or circumstantial (for example, hold a sound until the next sound you hear, whoever produces it). The material now also includes provision for retuning the strings to their usual pitches. Finally (it should be said that this recording does not use one of the eight pages of material), the score takes the form of prose instructions, requiring continuous sound from the players, to be changed in response to changes, whenever these happen to occur, in the playing of another. The specific character of an individual player's sound, texture, melodic continuity, etc., are now entirely her or his choice. The music as a whole, then, is a collaboration between the composer's score and the players' playing, and the latter becomes increasingly directed by the players' own decisions and feelings — the forming of which may have been assisted by the score to begin with.

Accompaniments, for pianist who is also required to sing or chant and play percussion with his feet (drum with pedal and high hat), was written for Frederic Rzewski in the late summer of 1972. This piece marks a break from what preceded, due partly to a growing impatience with what seemed to me the overly introverted feeling in much of my earlier music, with a sense of contradiction between the situation of its players — social, cooperative as well as calling on great individual alertness — and the way the resulting music seemed to affect its audience — as something remote, abstract and "pure." At the same time my interest in social and political questions had intensified and taken a more specific direction, and so I decided to attempt to make a more explicit connection between it and my music.
-Christian Wolff

This title, originally issued on the CRI label, is now available as a burn-on-demand CD (CD-R) or download in MP3/320, FLAC or WAV formats. CD-Rs come in a protective sleeve; no print booklet or jewel case included. Liner notes are accessible via the link above.

Various Artists

Christian Wolff: Lines / Accompaniments

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Track Listing

Christian Wolff
Christian Wolff