Harpsichord’s Gone Wild . . . (and the Music of the Spheres)

Ok, this classical piece I stumbled across lately has just blown my gourd, I’ve had to listen/watch this video several times today and yesterday. The manic intensity, like demented clocks on crack, playing back on a skipping record. I think the inside of my brain, on a good day, sounds something like this . . .

And make sure you get to the second half, it really takes off there. And the rock-star, red-headed crazy harpsichordist, Elisabeth Chojnacka, she’s just tight.

Granted,the discovery isn’t completely random, I just finished reading Alex Ross’ excellent history of 20th century ‘classical’ music The Rest is Noise, and it’s such a great book, but this composer, H.M. Gorecki, wasn’t even mentioned. And it seems a lot of his other work isn’t like this, quite mellow in general. Gotta do some more research. I found this after listening to an insane harpsichord work by Gyorgy Ligoti that she also played on (quite a cool piece, but I found the Gorecki more satisfying).

Ligoti’s the guy who did the amazing choral works in Kubrick’s 2001, if you haven’t heard those, def check those out as well. Ligoti’s work has got to be some of the most haunting stuff in the the 20th century. There’s some deep truth in it, I think.

It might seem semi-random to be researching music right now, but it’s ultimately quite connected to the whole network thing. It’s mostly ‘pleasure-research’: research that’s mostly for fun, but also indirectly connected to what I’m working on, now or eventually. After a long day editing the book, need something totally different. But also, network aesthetics will eventually be on the table, and I’m thinking a lot these days about music as networked motion in various sorts of abstract spaces (pitch space, tone space, etc.).

There’s a bit written on this as well, and I think it’s got a lot to do with the harmonic structure of reality. Not to get too lavy-lampy (?!), but quantum particles are very likely little more than juxtapositions of wave structures, the notion of a ‘music of the spheres’  isn’t as crazy as it all seems. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of really new-agey ‘string theory is cosmic music’ stuff out there. I think there’s potentially some interesting things that can be pursued out of this basic intuition, but I don’t think that work’s been done yet, certainly not in a way that’s rigorous in terms of math, philosophy, geometry, and yes, music theory. I mean, music is itself nothing more than a manifestation of wave patterns expressed by simple physics of oscillations. Quantum particles are governed by the Schrodinger equation which can itself be derived from the very same equations of waves that govern musical waves. Now, I haven’t gotten to the math in string theory yet, but I’ve been working on getting my math chops up to par for quite a while, and I’ve managed to get through a lot of the stuff in quantum and relativity theory, including the metric tensor. But my hunch is that Pythagoras wasn’t quite as loopy as he’s been thought to be on this one.

I also think that once math is rethought as a semiotic, and renaissance science is seen as semiotic practice, rather than science (good) mixed with magic (bad), that we can understand a bit more about how science functions semiotically in our society. I mean, maybe they’ll call our ‘bad’ science now, the science that’s disproven a thousand years from now, ‘magic’ too!

Anyway, these are things I want to research eventually, and which I hesitate to even mention lest it not be taken seriously. But I think there’s something useful here, I’m just not fully sure what. And that’s when research is the most fun, when you’re nosing around, learning based on your intuitions.

Well, now I’m just babbling, but hopefullly ya’ll enjoyed the music. I know I did!



~ by chris on March 20, 2011.

3 Responses to “Harpsichord’s Gone Wild . . . (and the Music of the Spheres)”

  1. There were three deaths in the music world that hit me hard last year, and one of them was not Michael Jackson’s. Alex Chilton, Captain Beefheart, and Henryk Górecki. Thanks for this.

    • I didn’t realize that he died last year. I wonder, does he have any more music like this? The rest of what i could find in a brief tour of youtube clips had only very quiet music or mournful music, nothing with this incredibly manic intensity.

  2. Most of the stuff that he’s best known for is indeed more slow and meditative; but like any artist worth attending to, he went through a long development. Probably best known (in the U.S.) is his 3rd Symphony, and some string quartets which Kronos recorded some years back. There are movements in these that are marked “allegro,” so it’s not all quiet and mournful all the time, though. He’s often likened to Arvo Pärt, and I can see (hear) why, but they aren’t the same.

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