In the forward to his score Claude Vivier describes Musik für das Ende as “a Ceremony – of the End”, an exploration of the relationships established between individuals at this “final stage of life”. The score for the piece uses unconventional notation to explore this interaction musically. Let’s take a look at this unusual score and some of its most noteworthy features.
Part assignment: How do performers know what line to read?
First off, the performers in the piece are divided into 3 groups:
- Group 1 and 2 are composed of soloists who interact with each other musically.
- Each performer is assigned a letter with their group number attached (i.e. Group 1 performers are assigned a1, b1, etc. and Group 2 are assigned a2, b2, etc.)
- Group 1 and 2 then read off the staff line with their assigned character (a1, a2, etc.). This is the highlighted in blue on the excerpted score above.
- Group 3 functions as a choir and looks for the indication “choeur” (meaning choir in French) for their music. This is highlighted in purple.
Cuing: How are sections signaled without any meter or conductor?
- Since the piece has no conductor and no steady pulse, groups 1 and 2 are each assigned a signal instrument for cuing purposes. Performers use these instruments (as well as hand signals) to signal a change or move to a new section.
The music: I don’t see any notes in this score – so where does the musical material come from?
The primary musical materials of the piece are:
- Individualized musics called solo passé (solos from the past) unique to each performance and performer. According to Vivier this music is meant to represent each performer’s history and individuality.
- To create this individualized music each performer chose their own “sound-key” (pitch), word, and rhythm different everyone else in their group.
- Pre-specified: all other musical materials are notated in an appendix to the score. This includes two solos that recalls Vivier’s own past, as well as a solo that represents a common human plea for forgiveness (called a Kyrie).
What’s up with this strange looking staff?
Each soloist reads off a 3-line staff. In order from top to bottom, the three lines represent the sound-key or pitch (S), the word (M), and the rhythm (W) which comprise their unique solo passé (described above). The first staff on the score except is highlighted in green.
How does Vivier notate the musical interaction between performers?
Viver uses the placement of each performer’s assigned character (a1, a2, etc.) on the 3-line staff in combination with a series of symbols, arrows, lines, and boxes to indicate what music the performer should sing and how they should interact with each other (i.e. should they ignore each other and sing their own music, should they search for a common music, should they exchange musics, etc.).
Circled in red is an example of a pair of performers who begin singing their own musics (this is indicated by the ≠ symbol). They then gradually begin singing each other’s material (indicated by the dotted lines and the appearance of their partner’s assigned character on their staff) before searching for a common music (indicated by the dotted box).
Throughout the piece the performers continually search for a common music and by the end have come together as one united being, or one single music, completing the ritual of the End.
Come experience Musik für das Ende yourself, playing from October 27 – November 4 at Crow’s Theatre.
Special thanks to John Hess, music director for Musik für das Ende, who both consulted on this piece and is guiding our signers through the creation process.
About the Author
Recently named as one of Canada’s hot 30 classical musicians under 30 by CBC, Katerina Gimon is an award-winning and emerging Canadian composer, improvisor, and vocalist based in Vancouver, British Columbia.