Experimental Music Arrangements



The permanent project which I call Musica Coniuncta originated some thirty years ago by serendipity. I had recorded two pieces from the radio at different times. In order to save tape, the pieces were recorded in mono on the adjacent tracks of a two-track tape recorder. Only at some later time I realized two things. First, the pieces had the same duration. Second, and more important, they sounded incredibly well fused when played together. The latter discovery was so startling that I refrained from doing anything about it, as if I had been given a gift that was not to be investigated. Much later I timidly began to try intentional operations of the kind, saw that they could work, that no evident punishment was hitting me from above, so I decided to make a project of it.

The accidental combination that started it all involved two orchestral pieces: the well-known “Lontano” by Ligeti, and the less-known “Stop” by Stockhausen.

The gamelan and gamelan music play an important role in the Musica Coniuncta project. They are present in the majority of the ‘coniunctiones’. Purists should stay clear of these musical arrangements. Others might be surprised by the results and even enjoy most or some of them. After repeated listenings, it might even happen that a certain combination of musics takes on a definite character of its own, additional with respect to the identity of the original pieces.

I discovered that Peter Szendy, in his book “Ecoute - Une Histoire de Nos Oreilles” (Les Editions de Minuit, 2001), has arguments that support or at least are relevant to proposals such as Musica Coniuncta. Listening is the reality, rather than music as an object. And every listening is a potential arrangement. Such are Szendy’s ideas, but I would hasten to refer to the original writings of that very modern and interesting book, for fear of misinterpretation due to excessive synthesis.

A few words about technique and choice of pieces. After the first unintentional chance operation - which was a complete overlap for the entire duration of the pieces - the coupling needed to become flexible, often using only portions of music, and occasionally moving them so that they would fit better one with the other. At times pitch adjustments may be appropriate, but I tend to avoid them, thus they are present in very few cases. The pieces are usually chosen among the musics that I love best, often searching contrast rather than similarity. Sometimes respectful irony is the motive. The specific sources which the pieces are taken from are available for anyone interested in knowing them.

Without much conceptualizing about it, I tend to consider separately another  type of elaboration that I call Musica Reparata. In this case, the result of the process may be seen as music that is being ‘re-prepared’  (Latin ‘re-parata’) or prepared/presented in a different way. But it may also be intended as music that has been ‘repaired’, and in this case an appropriate amount of humour needs to be called upon. As a matter of fact, the technical treatments used may bring to mind the physical and hardware workings of a mechanical repair shop.

John Noise Manis
April 2006