Ensemble interaction in indeterminate music: A case study of Christian Wolff’s Exercises

Emily Payne, Philip Thomas

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

The exploration of social organisation through the use of indeterminate notation has been a recurring concern of the music of experimental composer Christian Wolff (b. 1934) since the late 1950s. In 1973 he embarked upon a series of pieces titled Exercises for (mostly) unspecified instrumentation and numbers of players. Since then he has returned to the title to extend the number of works to, currently, 37;1 they are among his most frequently performed pieces. The notation Wolff employs in these pieces is skeletal and there are no separate parts: every musician reads from the same set of instructions and musical score. Consequently, players negotiate a way of working with the score and with each other, making decisions prior to, and during, the moment of performance. Orchestration, tempo, dynamics, sequence, coordination, and much else are all ‘up for grabs’, and can differ radically from performance to performance. Consequently, the Exercises offer considerable potential for navigating approaches to ensemble interaction, and for exploration of performance possibilities. Exactly how these possibilities are exercised in practice is the focus of this case study.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTogether In Music
PublisherOxford University Press
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 21 Aug 2020

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  • Activities

    • 1 Oral presentation

    Ensemble Interaction and Group Dynamics in Indeterminate Music: A Case Study of Christian Wolff’s Exercises

    Philip Thomas (Speaker) & Emily Payne (Speaker)

    13 Apr 2018

    Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation

    Cite this

    Payne, E., & Thomas, P. (Accepted/In press). Ensemble interaction in indeterminate music: A case study of Christian Wolff’s Exercises. In Together In Music Oxford University Press.