Space-Time Music: Anomalous Compositionson January 11, 2013 at 11:32 am
At the Gralien Report, we’re music lovers, and unlike a lot of other mediums that deal with fringe material and the unexplained, I try not to focus solely on the overtly unusual (i.e. Bigfoot, ghost, and UFO sightings reported and repeated ad nauseum, with little actual interest in deciphering their meaning). Occasionally, I even like to cast an eye to the arts, in an attempt at perhaps better understanding the weirdness underlying our existence. This was the case with an earlier article we featured here, titled “Classic Art That Gives You The Creeps,” where I looked at the more subtle aspects of the odd and, at times, unsettling, as conveyed through classical paintings that bear abstract elements. But much the same, perhaps there is another fine example of where the anomalous and the arts intermingle found in classical music compositions.
Alfred Schnittke’s music was first brought to my attention by my colleague Dr. Maxim Kammerer, following our discussion about the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff, whose “Isle of the Dead,” inspired in part by Arnold Boecklin’s series of paintings of the same name, truly fascinated me. Schnittke’s music is a bit different from Rachaninoff, however, in that his presentation of what he called “polystylism” blended both classical and contemporary styles, often with an unsettling overtone that lent itself to the summation of a rhythmic audible psychosis, for lack of a better term.
The Music of Madness
“I find something paranormal in his music,” Kammerer wrote to me during one of our correspondences in 2012, “as if it is coming from what we would consider the future.”
He went on to say:
“[H]is music is also incredibly moving. His nine symphonies are beyond words for me, especially numbers 3 through 9… his 5th stroke ended everything, but the 9th symphony’s score, written in an almost unreadble script in his left hand because he was paralysed on his right side by earlier strokes, has been deciphered and performed. The 9th has been described by one crirtic as having been composed by someone who was already a ghost, looking around on the other side saying to himself, ‘This looks like it’s worth exploring here for a very long time.’ His symphonies 1 through 8 are all available on youtube for free.
“Also I would recommend his Piano Quintet, written in response to his mother’s death in 1972, which you can hear on youtube if you want to check it out.”
I’ve chosen to link that video above, which certainly evokes chills as one listens. At approximately 2:22 in the video, note the monotonous tone that begins to emerge more and more forcefully as the piece progresses; at times, the presentation is reminiscent of the unsettling feeling evoked by director Alfred Hitchcock in many of his films; namely his famous on-screen rendition of Robert Bloch’s thriller, Psycho.
Also, for a stylistically broad, and at times horrific sounding piece of music, replete with victorian harpsichord, the piece below, “A Far Cry,” remains perhaps one of Schnittke’s more exciting and enduring compositions. I like to think this music would have complimented most any of Hitchcock’s films quite well: