Studies in black and white

Nikolas Slonimsky (originariamente Nikolaj Leonidovič Slonimskij; 27 aprile 1894 – 1995): Studies in black and white per pianoforte (1928), eseguiti dall’autore (registrazione del 1972).

My first Gradus ad Parnassum in America was the publication in 1929 of my anti-pianistic Studies in Black and White in New Music, a quarterly founded by that formidable champion of modern devices, Henry Cowell. True to my spirit of contrariness, I went against the mainstream. While composers vied with each other In piling up dissonance upon dissonance, I decided to write a piano suite employing only literal concords. Furthermore, I decreed that the right hand should play on the white keys only, and the left hand on the black keys. Consequently, there is no need of accidentals.
No key signature was required in the right hand as the flats in the left hand were arrayed like a ladder. I described this procedure as consonant counterpoint in mutually exclusive diatonic and pentatonic systems, for I have always been addicted to polysyllabic self-expression. I wrote the studies in the summer of 1928, and both the whimsical idiom and the titles of individual movements reflect the simple sophistication of the period: Jazzelette, A Penny for Your Thoughts, Happy Farmer, Quasi Fugato, Anatomy of Melancholy, March, The Sax Dreaming of a Flute, Sin2 x + Cos2 x = 1 (this trigonometrical piece ends on a unison to symbolize figure 1), and Typographical Errors. There is also a Prelude in which euphonious dissonances are discreetly employed, while the harmonies betray my early adoration of Scriabin whose family I intimately knew in Russia. Henry Cowell reported to me in mock horror that the sales of my opus were almost commercial in numbers, which threw a dark shadow of suspicion on my modernism, for it was a dogma that real modern music did not sell.

Nicolas Slonimsky



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