Counterpoints: A Lecture-Demonstration by Prof. Peter Edwards and Wu Xian

Counterpoints: A Lecture-Demonstration by Prof. Peter Edwards and Wu Xian

4 May 2017
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Prof Peter Edwards, presenter
Jung A Yoon, piano
Cheryl Lim, flute
Chang Hong, clarinet
Lee Shi Mei, violin
Martin Jaggi, cello

The evening's concert programme looks at the notion of contrapuntal writing from a few different perspectives.

The familiar understanding of counterpoint is represented by two works by J. S. Bach. Wu Xian cellist Martin Jaggi has transcribed Bach's Unfinished Fugue from The Art of Fugue for the ensemble. Contrasted to this is Helmut Lachenmann's Third Voice to J.S. Bach's Two-Voice Invention in D Minor. An unusual work in his oeuvre - Lachenmann is best known for his use of extended instrumental techniques - the composer offers up a seemingly innocent third voice to Bach's famous d minor invention. Elliott Carter's Canon for 4 uses a familiar technique at the heart of contrapuntal writing but in a modern language.

Although Carter spent 70 years exploring the farthest reaches of polyphony, his canon is an unusual work in that it borrows directly from a traditional compositional technique and avoids most of his signature personal developments. A Birthday Hocket by Japanese composer Jo Kondo takes a modern approach to the hocket, a contrapuntal technique common in the Medieval era wherein a single melody is projected by passing it between different instruments.

Finally, the works by Alvin Lucier abstract the notion of counterpoint the furthest. Fideliotrio is truly points against points wherein the piano's individually articulated notes collide with the slow and sustained glissandos in violin and cello, resulting in audible beating due to the slight tuning differences between the instruments. I'm Sitting In A Room is a classic work of experimental, electronic music wherein a text is recorded in a room and then played back and recorded, and then the playback of the playback is recorded. This process is repeated until the text disappears and the resonant frequencies of the room in which the recordings are played take over. This is a counterpoint, not of note against note, but of sound against the space in which it must inevitably be heard.