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August 19, 2020

Extreme Chamber Music — "Giacinto Scelsi discovered the world in one note"


You don't have to like chamber music to enjoy reading about it, just as you may never eat street food in Bangkok but can find reading stories about it in the New York Times Dining section mouth–wateringly irresistible.

Alex Ross, music critic for the New Yorker magazine since 1996, wrote an interesting piece for the November 21, 2005 issue about Giacinto Scelsi (above), a self–taught Italian composer who, toward the end of the 1950s, "had the extraordinary idea of writing an entire work — the 'Four Pieces' for chamber orchestra — that consisted of only single tones, one for each movement."


Ross continued, "... This obscure Roman eccentric, who considered himself a 'messenger' or 'medium,' has become a cult figure among younger composers: he makes the eternal new."

From Ross's essay:

He fell in love with Eastern philosophy and made trips to India and Nepal.

After the Second World War, he suffered a breakdown and stopped composing for a few years.

He spent day after day playing a single note on the piano.

The casual observer might have thought he had gone mad.

He was, in fact, was regaining his balance.

Addenda to his New Yorker article are entitled "Scelsi morning after."

Ross's blog is a music lover's delight, what with all sorts of great links and posts available.

August 19, 2020 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


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