27 sonorities (1997)
Duration: variable, ca. 5’
Premiere: Jesse Langen, silent/listen music festival, Chicago, April 1997
Recording: Portrait CD, Jesse Langen, 2012
Notes from the CD: Mobile, 2012
Stabat Mater c. 1590 Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525/26–94) (arr. Gifford, 1997)
27 sonorities 1997
Composition is an act liable to the law of unexpected consequences, with these works being prime examples. The composer had initially taken the eight-part setting of the Stabat Mater by Palestrina as the harmonic basis for his orchestral work aSpectres, shearing the original of its contrapuntal moorings in the process. A byproduct of this use was a transcription, or perhaps condensation is more apt, of the original for a lone guitar. The transcription preserves the original modality (set here on f#) and the tempo indicated is quarter note = 84, focusing the guitarist’s attention on faster subdivisions of the figurations in this solemn setting.
A further byproduct, employing the same vertical treatments of the horizontal material by Palestrina [Stabat Mater], and now reduced only to these chords, took shape as 27 sonorities, a modern-day free fantasia. Its notation bears similarities to the instrumental fantasias cultivated by Francesco Canova da Milano and his followers in 16th-century Italy, as well as the préludes non mesurés later developed by Louis Couperin in 17th-century France: Chords liberated from bar lines and the strictures of pulse, without dynamics and without tempo.