By Larry Murray
A note is commonly thought to be the smallest element of a musical composition. It is the composer’s task to arrange these elements and the performer’s to articulate them. But up to how much pitch variation is a note with vibrato still a single note? At a certain point in performance, the composer’s schema gives way to the performer’s intuitive sense for the note, bringing life into the system.
With “Speicher,” German composer Enno Poppe has created a complex structure of variations, repetitions and mictrotonal intonation, built to push its 22 players to their interpretive and technical extremes. On Friday (March 13) at 8pm, the Talea Ensemble will rise to this challenge in presenting the US premiere of “Speicher” at EMPAC at RPI in Troy.
“Speicher” had its world premiere at the Donaueschingen Festival in Germany in 2013 to widespread acclaim. Translated as “reservoir,” the piece extends a technique called “the hocket,” with which Poppe had experimented in earlier works. Common to 14th century choral music, the technique approaches orchestral arrangement much like a large-scale mosaic, fragmenting melody across the ensemble with quick cuts and changes of timbre. This follows an earlier compositional interest into traditional Korean notions of pitch, preferring to slide between notes rather than in a stepwise manner.