World-Wide Webern

14 Sep 2009
Posted by timecurve

Given the type of music I've written most of my life you'd never think I was ever interested in serialism. But I was. And of all the serialists, the one who spoke most clearly and directly to me was Anton Webern. His short, highly crafted, miniatures contain the essence of controlled chromaticism, in much the same way that Bach's chorales contain the essence of all harmonic motion. Both composers were perfect at what they set out to do. In graduate school I even wrote a highly detailed 32-page analysis of the second movement of Webern's Opus 27 Piano Variations, a one-page piece. (I also analyzed Boulez's Structures, but that's another story.) Anyway, September 15th is the 64th anniversary of Webern's death. (He was accidentally shot dead in 1945 by an American soldier when he stepped outside to smoke a cigarette.) For the 60th anniversary in 2005, composer Karlheinz Essl in Vienna created "WebernUhrWerk", a music generator written in MaxMSP that plays a short musical phrase on Carillon every 15 minutes. The phrase is based on the row of Webern's last work which he was unable to complete, his unfinished Opus 32. Originally created for an open-air sound installation, WebernUhrWerk is now available for download. And since it's already the 15th of September in Australia, I've got it playing on my computer right now. Others in Australia are doing the same, and OhMyKidd (aka Matthew Davies of the NFSA) even has it playing in Second Life. Karlheinz Essl invites everyone to share the memory of Webern by downloading the program and playing the sound output “privately at home, during a public event or even in open space.” WebernUhrWerk is a wonderful way to pay worldwide tribute to a giant of the past. If you'd like to join us in commemorating Webern, the program is available as freeware for download (Mac/PC) from: http://www.essl.at.