• Gunther Schuller
  • Composition in Three Parts (1963)

  • Associated Music Publishers Inc (World)
  • 44(pic)3(ca)2+Ebcl+bcl.3(cbn)/4431/timp.3perc/hp.pf/str
  • 16 min

Programme Note

Composer Note:

Composition in Three Parts is conceived in three disjunct sections played without interruption, each of which explores and emphasizes a different type of musical continuity and different compositional techniques. Thus Part I is based primarily on a technique of rhythmic fragmentation. A harmonic cell stated at the outset is “rhythmicized,” so to speak, atomized in numerous ways, exploring, in the process, the subtle relationship between (1) exact repetition, (2) near-repetition and (3) complete absence of repetition. The resultant continuity is basically static and non-developmental, which serves as a contrast to the more mobile and flexible continuities of Parts II and III.

In contrast to the rhythmic character of Part I, Part II is primarily melodic and linear. Long lyrics lines are spun out with the aid of Klangfarben-melodie (tone-color-melodies, a German term denoting the use of a variety of successive timbres or tone colors within a single melodic line). Whereas the brass played a leading role in Part I, Part II gives much prominence to the clarinet, and occasionally the entire clarinet section.

Part III combines the essential characteristics of the previous two sections: the static, chordal quality of Part I with the fluent polyphony of Part II. This is achieved by alternating harmonic aggregates (again primarily in the brass) with recitative-like declamatory phrases (primarily in the basses). Both of these elements are kept at maximum intensity (in keeping with the declamatory, “positive” nature of the section)—the harmonies full of close, cluster-like dissonances, the bass melodies full of big leaps and unexpected turns. A very short coda, using a fanfare-like triplet figure in the trumpets, brings the work to a close in a triumphant spirit.

All the three parts are clearly demarcated, not only by means of the above-stated differentiations, but also by means of strongly contrasting dynamic levels at the juncture points of the three sections.

—Gunther Schuller