In 1967 the Rome Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Bruno Maderna, recorded four atonal, serial, and/or aleatory works. Ignore the Fresh-Air-esque middlebrow notes on the back of the record sleeve and just drop the fukkin’ needle.
The four pieces:
Kontra-Punkte (Stockhausen, 1952) – It sounds like music being built from the ground up. Tones are clustered into molecules of sound called a ‘group.’ Tone, length, timbre are set against each other to give a feeling of conflict and restlessness. (Name drop! ‘I’m friends with the nephew of Frederic Rzewski, who plays piano on this recording.)
Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima (Pendercki, 1960) – Originally called 8? 37″, this piece starts off like those annoying THX promos they play before a movie. But then you are softened up with a light pummeling by blocks of string sound. This gives way to a dreadful silence that gradually fills in with ashes and embers of sounds scraped from string instruments. One last whack with a sound block sends you on your way to side B.
Available Forms I (Brown, 1961) – This piece is partially composed by the conductor because he can pick from events on the score in any order. I think this piece is about a big amoeba that keeps eating instruments it can’t digest. Or maybe that’s a book I read to my kids.
Rimes pour differentes sources sonores (Pousseur, 1959) – This is my favorite one. Here we finally get some electronic sounds from our electronic pioneers. Natural sounds are fixed up with electronically processed sounds by a mutual friend and wind up taking a white noise shower together on their first date. The second section, more of a coda really, has two sextets with brass and woodwinds scraping up against each other until they both disappear.