Quattro Pezzi su una nota sola by Giacinto Scelsi


Giacinto Scelsi (1905-88)
Quattro Pezzi su una nota sola
(4 short pieces, each on one note)
Note by Karen Power

Italian composer Giacinto Scelsi wrote this, his most famous work, in 1959, and it received its première in Paris in 1961. Scelsi uses just 26 orchestral instruments to highlight a vast amount of timbres, tone-colours and pitch inflections, which are all based around a single note for each short movement. The cycle of pitches is F, B, Ab and A. This quote from Scelsi describes better than I could the way he was thinking of and hearing sound:

If you play a sound for a very long time, it grows. It becomes so big that you start to hear many more harmonies, and it becomes bigger inside... all possible sounds are contained in this sound from the start...

My attraction to Scelsi's music lies in its unwavering realization of an idea, of which this work is an excellent example. Scelsi thought about the way sound behaves and the huge impact that the colour of a sound has on how we hear it. His music is as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. I guess the same can be said of all music; however, in this case, the simplicity can be tied down to just one note. This piece gives us a chance to really hear the orchestra and its colour. Each instrument's entry and omission allows us to hear how everything changes when one tiny addition or subtraction is made. I could listen to this piece all day and am so grateful to the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra for performing it.

Note by Karen Power

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