Time: 63 mins
Margaret Leng Tan
Eye of Sound: Notation naturally underwent the same ruptures that its signified did throughout the 20th century, not only in the attempt to find technically suitable illustrations for unprecedented forms of sonic expression, but also, as it was often the case, as a deliberate attack on the conventions of the graphic representation of sound. In the process, scores became increasingly idiosyncratic, more conscious about their arbitrary (i.e. semiotic) nature, and concomitantly assumed the status of art objects in themselves. Crumb once said that he tries to make scores "as simple and conventional as possible", pointing out that economy and clarity are vital to the performer's understanding of the composer's work; and, when asked to comment on his well-known penchant for elaborate notation designs, the composer simply justified them as "flights of whimsy". There is much more than whimsy to his scores, however, and besides their immense beauty and obvious symbolic import, they are complex enough to have inspired several research essays by well-known musicologists and art historians, not to mention modern mystics of different sorts. As a companion to Leng Tan's performance of George Crumb's zodiacal Makrokosmos I & II, we are lucky enough to be offered the possibility of watching the piece's original scores unfold as the music progresses, allowing us a few glimpses of the composer's aural graphism as well as insights into his verbal understandings of his own compositions ("as if suspended in time" in Agnus Dei/Capricorn, "like a cosmic clockwork" in Magic Circle/Leo); precise indications ("depress white keys silently" in Prophecy/Aries); corrections; dedications (for David Burge and Robert Miller); and humorous remarks ("excellent first piece!" in Primeval/Cancer). A beautiful and enlightening experience in the art of augenmusik, as fascinating as watching Tan and Nowitz play.