A fter picking the title ‘For the Time Being,’ I realized just how often I use this expression in my daily life. When we say these words we imply that whatever state we are in or whatever action we are performing is temporary and merely a fleeting moment. In reality, of course, all states and actions are temporary, and our perception of permanence is an illusion. ‘For the Time Being’ is the newest in a series of works examining this concept of passing time.”
I didn’t measure how long I was doing mouth-to-mouth breathing, but I remember thinking during the last several minutes that [the plight of this lifeless, transverse-presenting, APGAR-score-zero newborn] was hopeless. But I persisted [thinking that my doing so was, for the time being, at best ridiculous and, at worst, wrong or disrespectful of the natural fact]. And I was finally rewarded when Anna MacRae of Middle River, Victoria County, came to life.”I ngrid Stölzel’s new composition for flute, soprano saxophone and piano offers great beauty for the listener, plus intriguing expressive and technical challenges for each of the performers. The flute and soprano sax parts are balanced partners, while the piano undertakes an impetuous, omniscient-narratorly, cantus firmus role, with occasional upper-register tolling that explicitly marks the passage of time.
C. Lamont MacMillan, Memoirs of a Cape Breton Doctor.
F or the Time Being’ was a commmission by the Greenbrook Ensemble in Nashville. The work that resulted from their commission is a phenomenally beautiful and poignant addition to the trio repertoire for flute, soprano sax, and piano: a 7-min fantasie, in a Walter Piston-esque, Bohuslav Martinů-esque neoclassicist modal-chromatic idiom, symbolically-charged with repetition in both rhythm and pitch, including pedal points. The work is contrapuntal, highly chromatic.
I ts initial lyrical, light and graceful lento is seeded with contemplative rubato, becoming adagio and intermittently more animated/incisive—embodying the transitoriness/impermanence suggested by Stölzel’s remark in the blockquote above. Flute and soprano sax parts are intertwined, coalescing into close harmony and then diverging again. The work embodies an intense chromatic saturation, as contrasted with more ‘open’ diatonic style. The result is subtle: acutely self-aware but never self-absorbed.
I relistened to the Colorado State YouTube video several times (vid embedded below), capturing timings for the woodwinds. The rhythmic interplay between flute and soprano sax exhibits a fractional structure as a function of frequency that is close to a 1/f relationship, intermediate between uncorrelated ‘white’ noise and strongly-correlated Brownian noise. (An important property of 1/f timeseries structure is that it correlates logarithmically with past values. The last 3 notes, say, have equal influence on what comes next as the last 30 or the last 300.)
A nother feature of 1/f or “nearly-1/f” structure is ‘self-similarity’, which means that the smaller-scale details resemble coarser features that are higher in the hierarchy of structures that comprise the piece. Self-similarity of musical structures has fascinated composers long before fractal and multi-scale mathematics was known. For example, Bach sometimes used the same pitch contour in his fugues in the slow cantus firmus as in the fast motoric figures. So, too, with this new Ingrid Stölzel piece.
S tölzel changes meter many times in the course of the short piece. The continual shifts of meter and tempo are a most noticeable aspect of the work’s complexity, and of its perspective on personhood, self-awareness, and awareness of Time.
T he piece is constructed on a series of dyadic conflicts: episodic expansion/contraction metaphors, mainly involving the flute and soprano sax. Neither wind player can escape or circumvent these chromatic inflections, but must make believable decisions about how to use timbre/spectra to express the conflicts and their resolution. Am I azure or lavender? Was I light turquoise or dark robin’s-egg blue? Remembering/forgetting? Separating/reuniting? Living/dying?
S tölzel meditates... on the socio-historical reality of what it is to be a person, situated in Time and lacking any guarantees; on the connectedness of how we conceive of ourselves, in the context of yesterday, today, tomorrow; on our uncertainty about how much time we have (or don’t have, in the case of those of us who have a highly-uncertain and likely very-much-shortened future due to chronic, life-threatening illness). Martin Heidegger, Wilhelm Dilthey, and Paul Ricoeur are among the philosophers who explored this terrain in the 20th Century. (Links to works by other, more recent authors appear below, for your interest.)
I n other words, the trio is a delicate balance of love and horror—we create something meaningful that soon slips from our grasp; we inevitably lose our loved ones or they lose us; we cling futilely, to hopes that no longer have any reasonable basis. Life: so brutal, so unreliable. Life: the only good thing that we have, for the time being.
I n any instant the Sacred may wipe you [out] with its finger. In any instant, the bush may burst into flames, your feet may rise, or you may see a bunch of souls in a tree. In any instant you may avail yourself of the power to love your enemies; to accept failure, slander, or the grief of loss; or to endure torture.”I ngrid Stölzel has written for ensembles such as newEar contemporary chamber ensemble, NOISE/San Diego New Music, California E.A.R. Unit, Adaskin String Trio, Erato Chamber Orchestra, Allegrésse, and Synchronia, among others. She is the winner of the 2010 NewMusic@ECU Festival Orchestra Composition Competition, the 2009 Cheryl A. Spector Prize, the 2007 UMKC Chamber Music Composition Competition and the 2006 PatsyLu Prize awarded by the International Alliance of Women in Music. Stölzel is a frequent guest composer and her music has been performed at music festivals and conferences including the 2011 Festival of New American Music, 2011 International Alliance of Women in Music Congress, 2011 New Music Festival X, IC[CM] 2010 International Conference on Contemporary Music in Spain, NACUSA 2010 National Conference, soundOn Festival of Modern Music, 30th Sacramento State Festival of New American Music, Oregon Bach Festivals, Ernest Bloch Festivals, Women in New Music Festival, Chamber Music Conference of the East, Otterbein Contemporary Music Festival, and Indiana State Contemporary Music Festival. Stölzel received her doctorate in composition at the University of Missouri Conservatory of Music and Dance in Kansas City, where she studied with James Mobberley, Chen Yi, and Zhou Long. She holds a Master of Music in composition from the Hartt School of Music in Hartford, Connecticut. Stölzel was a guest composer at the 30th Sacramento State Festival of New American Music. She has done artist residencies at the Ragdale Foundation and the Atlantic Center for the Arts in Florida.
Ingrid is a native of Germany and has lived in the U.S. for the past 20 years.
F or the Time Being’ will be performed in Kansas City in a concert by newEar Ensemble on Saturday, 11-FEB. Go, hear!
I f the muscle can feel repugnance, there is still a false move to be made;
If the mind can imagine tomorrow, there is still a defeat to remember;
As long as the self can say ‘I,’ it is impossible not to rebel;
As long as there is an accidental virtue, there is a necessary vice:
And the garden cannot exist; the miracle cannot occur.
The garden is the only place there is, but you will not find it
Until you have looked for it everywhere and found nowhere that is not a desert.
The miracle is the only thing that happens, but to you it will not be apparent
Until all events have been studied and nothing happens that you cannot explain.
And Life is the destiny you are bound to refuse until you have consented to die.”
W.H. Auden, ‘For the Time Being’.
- Ingrid Stölzel website
- newEar Contemporary Music Ensemble website
- Greenbrook Ensemble website
- Auden W. For the Time Being. (1942) Modern Library, 2007, pp. 347-400.
- Beran J. Statistics in Musicology. Chapman & Hall/CRC, 2003.
- Bossart W. Borges and Philosophy: Self, Time, and Metaphysics. Lang, 2003.
- Dillard A. For the Time Being. Vintage, 2000.
- Farin I. Heidegger's Concept of Time: The First Draft of Being & Time. Athlone/Continuum, 2011.
- van Hysteen J, Wiebe E, eds. In Search of Self: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Personhood. Eerdmans, 2011.
- Ilomäki T. On the Similarity of Twelve-tone Rows. DMA Dissertation, Sibelius Academy, Helsinki, 2008, pp. 196–222.
- Koblyakov A. Semantic aspects of self-similarity in music. Symmetry Culture & Sci 1995;6:297–300.
- Leighton T. Visions of Awakening Space and Time: Dogen and the Lotus Sutra. Oxford Univ, 2008.
- Lewin D. A theory of segmental association in twelve-tone music. Persp New Music 1962;1:89–116.
- Liu J-L, Perry J, eds. Consciousness and the Self: New Essays. Cambridge Univ, 2012. [esp. Ch. 5 'Waiting for the Self' and Ch. 9 'Personhood and Consciousness']
- Loizou A. Time Embodiment and the Self. Avebury, 2000.
- Muldoon M. Tricks of Time: Bergson, Merleau-ponty And Ricoeur in Search of Time, Self and Meaning. Duquesne Univ, 2006.
- Pareyon G. On musical self-similarity: Intersemiosis as synecdoche and analogy. PhD dissertation, Univ Helsinki, 2011 [Acta Semiotica Fennica 2011;39(13).]
- Waddell N, Abe M, trs. The Heart of Dogen's Shobogenzo. SUNY, 2002.
- Tárogató page
- Tárogató at Karl Hammerschmidt & Söhne GmbH
Aries Composers’ Festival at Colorado State University Center for the Arts, 07-NOV-2011.
B eran and others comprehend musical self-similarity as a problem of engineering. In contrast, investigations that consider its cultural significance within a certain historical tradition, are very rare (e.g. Kieran 1996, Yadegari 2004). In a brief article published in 1995, Alexander Koblyakov throws a first light on this matter, making a basic statement about the study of musical self-similarity, noticing that [in principle] ‘there is a problem[atic] situation... It is necessary to include the perception (mentality) factor in a considered phenomenon of self-similarity.’ Unfortunately, most of the literature on the subject disregards this sharp observation.” Gabriel Pareyon, 2011.