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Studio E • Saturday morning, 10:30–12:00

The Music of Georg Friedrich Haas

Aleksandra Vojcic (University of Michigan), Chair

Landon Morrison (McGill University / Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Music Media and Technologies)

Playing with Shadows: The Reinjection Loop in Georg Friedrich Haas's Live-Elektronische Musik

William Mason (Oberlin Conservatory) 

Liminal Spaces in Georg Friedrich Haas’s limited approximations

Abstracts

Playing with Shadows: The Reinjection Loop in Georg Friedrich Haas's Live-Elektronische Musik

Landon Morrison (McGill University / Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Music Media and Technologies)

The music of Austrian composer Georg Friedrich Haas is often grouped within the loose generic bounds of spectralism, but the composer dismisses this overly narrow characterization; instead, he positions his work at the intersection of several compositional approaches [Haas 2007]. Recent scholarship seems to support this view, suggesting that Haas’s music can be understood as a dramatic confrontation between “clashing harmonic systems” [Hasegawa 2015]. Building on these observations, this paper focuses on Haas’s recent endeavors in the domain of live-elektronische Musik, showing how the composer deploys a relatively straightforward technical procedure—the reinjection loop, or the delayed playback of recorded sound at various speeds—to juxtapose different modes of pitch organization, including twelve-tone temperament, microtonality, and just intonation. In Ein Schattenspiel (2004) for solo piano, recorded material is consistently played back at an accelerated ratio of 33/32, producing a quartertone system that recalls Ivan Wyschnegradsky’s ultrachromatisme and espaces non octaviant. By contrast, materials in String Quartet No.4 (2003) are reinjected in a stop-and-go manner at different speeds, yielding fluid pitch relationships between the performers and live electronics: just-intoned harmonies clash with near-octave sonorities, twelve-tone melodies are harmonized with overtone spectra, and at times, indeterminacy throws the music open to chance. In these works, the reinjection loop functions on multiple levels, bringing the performers into contact with their immediate pasts, but also bringing Haas into dialogue with the long-cast shadows of his own musical predecessors, sparking a conflation of historical memory as various strains of influence collide in a musical pastiche.

Liminal Spaces in Georg Friedrich Haas’s limited approximations

William Mason (Oberlin Conservatory)

This paper considers theoretical properties of 72-tone equal temperament and their usage in Georg Friedrich Haas’s limited approximations (2010), scored for six microtonally tuned pianos and orchestra. I argue that Haas’s oft-cited relationship to the French spectral school is best exemplified not in his technical praxis—which is starkly dissimilar from the high-tech preoccupations of spectral composers like Tristan Murail or Kaija Saariaho—but in Haas’s broader aesthetic orientation to the concept of liminality, also a spectral hallmark. 72-tone equal temperament affords him a technical infrastructure in which to move smoothly between systems of pitch organization or, more often, to explore the transitional space not only between tuning systems but also between pitch and timbre, and consonance and dissonance. In limited approximations this encourages hearing the piece as manifesting an uneasy sound world characterized by murky, grotesque sonorities that give way to beautiful but fleeting moments of clarity, like objects in a heat haze coming into focus. I take those moments of systemic clarity to be aurally marked events that guide the listener through a piece that otherwise lacks recurring formal or motivic elements, and my analysis draws attention to those moments.