EL PUNTO QUIETO

 

(see below for English)

 

Mi primera pieza hecha en serio para la guitarra, y me confirmó lo difícil que es escribir para guitarra, y peor si uno conoce el instrumento.

 

El título viene de T.S.Eliot, una frase del primero de los Four Quartets. La cita completa sería

 

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.

 

Cuando me vino la idea para la pieza, viajando desde Tacuarembó a Montevideo, me vino junto con este fragmento de Eliot. Me fascinó especialmente esa paradoja de quietud y danza al mismo tiempo, y traté de darle forma. En esa época andaba muy interesado en Stockhausen y Xenakis, si bien no creo que la pieza sea derivativa de ellos, pobres inocentes, que no tienen nada que ver con esto. Hay bastantes procedimientos en EPQ que tienen que ver con matemáticas, bastante elementales por cierto. La forma general es la de una especie de tema con variaciones, todo partiendo de un do # que está siempre presente. No tengo idea de por qué esa nota, pero recuerdo que de chico, a los seis años más o menos, donde hubiera un piano, yo iba derecho a él y tocaba el do #. Eso estaba desde el comienzo.

 

La sección A es una expansión libre de esa nota, en la cual cada frase tiene un número de acontecimientos correspondiente a la serie de Fibonacci (1, 2, 3, 5, 8,....). B está hecha con permutaciones encadenadas de cuatro notas y en espejo; esto hace que no haya manera de predecir cuál es la próxima nota ni de percibir una forma general, aunque es posible percibir formas transitorias aparentes. C usa algo parecido pero también las duraciones están calculadas estadísticamente (en forma más bien artesanal, como quien saca bolillas de un bolillero, pero hubo un cálculo previo de cuáles eran las bolillas). Y a todo eso se le superpone, irregularmente y sin dirección armónica, una trama de acordes, que no estaban calculados pero en el momento de escribir parecieron necesarios, no tengo idea de por qué, lo mismo que las dinámicas o los cambios de color. Creo que esta sección tendría que ver con la “danza” de la que habla Eliot, y espero que el uso de la estadística haga que si uno toma un pasaje breve aislado, parezca tener una dirección, pero siempre estará desmentida o modificada por lo que sigue – como caminar en un laberinto o algo por el estilo. Finalmente en D hay una “expansión” supersimplificada del famoso do# (los matemáticos hablarían probablemente de una variación “degenerada”, lo que me parece excesivo, yo la llamaría un mero momento de libertinaje) en dos dimensiones sucesivas. No se dejen impresionar por lo matemático – la idea fue totalmente intuitiva y los procedimientos fueron inventados sobre la marcha para poder realizarla con precisión, esperando que pudieran hacerlo.

 

THE STILL POINT

 

My first serious piece for guitar, and it confirmed that it is very difficult to write for it, even more if you know the instrument. The title is taken from T.S.Eliot, from “Burnt Norton”, the first of the Four Quartets. The complete quote would be:

 

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.

 

When I had the idea for the piece (travelling on a bus from Tacuarembó to Montevideo during the night) I was thinking of this fragment of Eliot. I was particulary fascinated by this paradox of stillness and dance at the same time and I tried to give it musical shape.

At the time I was very interested in Stockhausen and Xenakis, but I don't think the piece sounds like them, poor innocents, who are not at all guilty of this. Several things in this piece have to do with mathematics. The general for is a kind of theme and variations, all of it starting from a c# which is always present. I have no idea why I chose this note, but I remember that when I was about six years old, if there was a piano nearby, I went to it and played the c#, every time. So that was there from the start.

 

Section A is a free expansion of that note, in which the only restriction was that each “phrase” would have a number of events corresponding to the Fibonacci series (1, 2, 3, 5, 8,...). B is made with chained permutations of four notes, and in a mirror: this means that there is no way of predicting which note will be next or of perceiving a general shape, but it is possible to imagine that there are transitory moments when things have some kind of direction.C uses something of the kind but also the durations are calculated according to a statistics formula to make it “random”, in a very home-made way, as if you were taking marbles out of a hat – but there was a calculation of which would be the marbles. And to all that I superimposed a net of chords, irregularly and without any harmonic direction, just for texture. This was not calculated but they seemed necessary, don't ask me why, and the same happened with the dynamics and the colours. I suspect this section has to do with Eliot's “dance”, and I hoped that using statistical procedures would cause that if you listen to some brief, isolated passage, it would seem to have some shape or direction, but this will be denied by what follows – like walking in a labyrinth or something like that. Finally, in D there is a supersimplified expansion of that famous c# successively in two different dimensions. In mathematics you would call this a “degenerate” variation, I think this would be excessive, as it is just a licentious moment. Please do not be impressed by the mathematics – the idea was completely intuitive and the procedures were invented on the spot just to realize it with some precision, hoping they would work.

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