Array Music

William Kentner Anderson & Superarray Music

I was getting my head around it at precisely the moment when John Rockwell was getting Gunther Schuller, Leon Fleisher and Richard Ortner fired from Tanglewood, as Rockwell insisted on a all-Phillip Glass show at Tanglewood.

My feelings about the coronation of Phillip Glass have evolved. In the end, I accept it as an understandable development, if not an inevitable one. More on that elsewhere.

If I ever have the time and energy, I'll go back to arrays, but they will not be of Babbitt density from beginning to end, they'll be integrated into other textures, like what Frank Brickle did in his Farai un vers. There is that problem with arrays, they lead to a sameness of density. It's a fascinating space to be in, but one eventually wants to get out of it.

Various Roses

M5 of the array is shuffled in as the piece progresses. Violin pizz is its own array, violin arco, guitar normal and guitar tremolo are their own arrays and these are arrays converge on the 3 Roses tunes. The roses -- their tune/harmonies, are projected through.

Various Roses -- In the back of my mind was the question -- what if Babbitt marked major structural moments -- array boundaries, but not necessarily array boundaries -- with a recognizable tune? This is a very obvious thing to do. Frank Brickle was onto this in his music from the 80s, which was sadly lost in a flood. The examples in Brickle's War, especially first movement, and his Berceuse & Barcarolle, from Child Orpheus (his lost suite for guitar)-- these were wonderful works and so very suggestive.

Milton made a committement to not do such. But one can hear array boundaries here and there, I think. Babbitt was committed to elisions, his endings are his beginnings. And so that is one thing that gives an improvisatory feel to his music. And what is most dazzling in Babbitt's Soli e Duettini, for me, is what happens around and inside momets of protrusion and recession, things that happen through drastc changes in volume.

Babbitt -- Soli e Duettini

Epicurean Song
The tune is one array and the accompaying vocies are the M5 of the first. This is contrapuntal, as the verticals in one array are nicelky rearranged in the M5.

My array pieces find a clear (to me) middle ground harmonic rhythm. To me this middle ground feels like Scarlatti or Bellini. By that I mean that the harmonic rhythms are on a familiar and palpable scale. I think of it as neo-Bourgeois. And in Epicurean Song, the tune comes out of this middle ground clarity. What I like about this tune is the way it sits on those middle ground things, making it a neo-bourgeois tune. The tune sits on a customized middle-ground with customized phrase endings--cutomized, meaning specially crafted for this bit of music.

This was recorded and edited in Fall of 2022.

My Morphine

Note, Babbitt showed that diverse aggregates can unfold independently if they are kept discrete somehow--most succressfully in discrete timbres -- each instrument can proceed through its own aggregate. In "My Morphine", a pop song is in counterpoint with array proceedings. In "Quant L'herba Fresq" the Provencal tunes express the aggregate.

My cover of the Gillian Welch song from her album, "Hell Among the Yearlings". This is a single array, but multiply partitioned. The opening and body of the piece is a 6\2 partition, the ending is a 5\2, 1\2 partition. 5/2, 1/2 partitions move nicely, like Schoenberg op. 27 #4.

Quant L'Herba Fresq

Tunes by Bernart de Ventadorn express the array, but not in the B section. Important to note here that, Babbitt guts his arrays, while others are slavish toward all the partition boundaries and such. I think in Babbitt you look for places where he goes Webernian for a stretch of very consistent interal content.

Babbitt outdoes himself in Swan Song No. 1.
The ending hits me with overwhelming power -- Brahmsian poignancy.

Apres Vous
Here is Robert Morris getting out of his array music and into canons. Canons, arrays, and superarrays are all suggestive of interval projection. I love the way RM holds harmonies, keeps a harmony in sway for a spell -- canonically evolving way-stations. The first 045, well into the piece, really pops.

Paul Bowman's version--

Frank Brickle's Farai un vers

And Brickle's figured out where this might go. His Farai un vers started with a passage that came from superarrays. That served as a reference passage, lunching into things that move differently. The arrays can lock you in to a density. In Brickle's Farai, he shows a way out. It's a masterpiece.

and this score tracking version, using the Furious Artisans performance --

<iframe src="" width="640" height="360" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; fullscreen; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>
<p><a href="">Brickle - Farai un Vers</a> from <a href="">Canadian Music Centre BC</a> on <a href="">Vimeo</a>.</p>

A shout out to Stephen Blumberg. His Farai un verse was first written for Vox n Plux, then expanded for Cygnus and voice. Stephen chose to set Paul Blackburn's traslations of Occitan (then called, "Provencal") poems. He calls the set, "Proensa", after Paul Blackburn's collections of translations. Steve's piece is a knock-out. It's not arrays, it's serial, but hetakes that to an unprecedented place.

Share Post
Subscribe Now!