Lorenzo Pagliei – Uno: courbes

Uno: courbes, a piece for solo piano by contemporary Italian composer Lorenzo Pagliei, seems repetitive at first, but in actuality is deceptive in its apparent transparency. At the beginning of the piece, he gives many repetitions of the same idea before one pitch is altered. Because of this, I first thought that this might be one of those painfully dry minimal pieces that feel so square because of the rigidity of the musical systems. However, right when I was considering moving on to listen to another piece, the notes began to change in increasingly interesting ways and with greater frequency. I was intrigued as to where Pagliei was going with this and continued listening. As the opening passage proceeds, not only do the pitches become altered but the rhythm changes as well with unequally long or short repetitions. Later, around 3′ into the piece until the end, this process is seen again as a very soft, but rigid sequence of notes emerges. However, this time Pagliei pushes boundaries of the music to points extremely far away because the formerly inflexible characteristics give way to a very free feeling because the length of phrase and the pitch content are perpetually shifting. The opening, in essence, shows clear as day what the general processes governing how the voices will move and what the rhythm will be like for the rest of the piece so that when he makes it more complex the listener will have an understanding of what will happen.

It is very interesting to me to see alternate systems of notation entirely from the traditional European system. In this case, Pagliei is using something akin to Logic’s notations. While I find it harder to read this system for specific pitch content, it does do two things very well that are harder to discern in the traditional system. First, it shows register and, as a result, contour very clearly. Because there are no clefs, low notes show up as very low on the scroll and high notes are very high. In this way, it is very easy to see the distance the music is traversing. Additionally, this allows you to easily discern more dense directional shifts within a line. The other thing I realized this notation does quite well is allowing the viewer to see dynamics. It is pretty obvious when watching the score go by when a loud passage (red) is going to intrude upon a quiet one (blue) which would seem to be a definite strength of the system.

Not sure what I’ll post tomorrow, but I hope you enjoyed the music. Feel free to comment with any thoughts you might have about it or recommendations for music to check out!

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