|Boundaries help define art.|
When you ephemeralize your own LPs, you are the master of your own destiny, introducing or removing boundaries to personalize the digital result for the most important listener: you.
Two relatively simple examples were presented last time; here we discuss two more interesting examples.
Artist: Glenn Gould (1932-1982)
The Goldberg Variations, originally written for harpsichord but often performed on piano, consist of an aria and 30 "diverse variations" on it. There is a definite order and structure. The variations all use the base line and chord progression of the aria. Every third variation, starting with variation #3 is a canon following an ascending pattern. The two variations following each canon also follow a distinct pattern, forming groups of 3. The 30th variation is a unique piece called the quodlibet; the aria is repeated to close the piece.
The CBS Masterworks edition of Glenn Gould playing The GV ignores the structure completely. Side 1 is the aria and variations 1-15; Side 2 presents variations 16-30 plus the aria reprise. It's an efficient use of vinyl (50% of the total piece on each side) recognizing the listener's need to flip sides to hear the entire piece. The CD re-issue went to the opposite extreme, organized as a flat list of 32 tracks.
I took a hybrid approach. Using the CD track times as a guide (accurate because the CD and LP contain the same performance) I exported the arias, variations 1&2, and the quodlibet independently, then exported the remaining nine groups of 3 as combined tracks identified by their canon. This offers playback flexibility while accurately reflecting the structure of the piece. One may not want to shuffle The GV, but a good index is always appreciated. The track list looks like this:
02 Variation 1
03 Variation 2
04 Variations 3-5: Canone all'Unisono
05 Variations 6-8: Canone alla Seconda
06 Variations 9-11: Canone alla Terza
07 Variations 12-14: Canone alla Quarta
08 Variations 15-17: Canone alla Quinta. Andante
09 Variations 18-20: Canone alla Sesta
10 Variations 21-23: Canone alla Settima
11 Variations 24-26: Canone all'Ottava
12 Variations 27-29: Canone alla Nona
13 Variation 30: Quodlibet
14 Aria da capo
Artist: Steve Reich and Musicians
Music for 18 Musicians is a so-called minimalist composition for voices, strings, reeds, piano and mallet instruments. Like The GV, Mf18M is structured as a series of variations (11 in this case) which composer Reich calls Sections, framed by the equivalent of an aria, a section entitled Pulse to open and close the piece. Unlike The GV, played as 32 self-contained pieces, Mf18M is a single continuous composition; transitions between sections are identified only by a shift in the pulse patterns and repeated phrases being played.
There are no tracks on the ECM vinyl recording, nor any time information published for the sections. Ask yourself: how does a continuous piece of music get put on LP, a medium with a distinct side A and B?
Producer Rudolph Werner solved that problem by engineering a long fade-out at the end of Section 4, which closes side A, and enginering a long fade-in at the start of Section 5, which opens side B. He effectively cut Mf18M in two to put it on disc.
As with The GV, I went to the CD re-issue to look for a strucural approach for my digital transfer for the LP. In this case, ECM chose to structure the CD as a single track containing the entire performance. I could do the same, fusing sides A and B, but that still would leave the fade-out/fade-in between sections 4 & 5.
So in the end, I chose to remain as true as I could to the composer's intent for the piece and the producer's intent for the LP, and transferred the side A and side B tracks as is.
Sometimes you slay the dragon. Sometimes the dragon wins.
© 2012 Thomas G. Dennehy. All rights reserved.