Wolfgang Rihm, a Chiffre

The 1980s and Beyond

Yves Knockaert

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The elusive and ungraspable in Rihm’s music
Wolfgang Rihm ( b. Karlsruhe, 1952) is the most performed living German composer. With his personal, expressive, and versatile music, he became the most prominent representative of his generation. His individual approach to music was established in the 1980s and he continues to explore and enlarge his original concepts today. His 1980s work is at the core of this book, more specifically his instrumental music: the Chiffre cycle and the string quartets. Thinking about Rihm includes reflecting on his interest in philosophy, his relation to fine arts, his awareness of principles found in nature, and his references to important composers from the past. His music is embedded in the past and the actuality in modernism and postmodernism. Notwithstanding Rihm’s generosity in essays and introductions to his works, many aspects of the ‘inner sound’ of his music stay an elusive, ungraspable ‘chiffre’: a challenge for the analyst.

With Foreword by Richard McGregor (Professor Emeritus, University of Cumbria)

This publication is GPRC-labeled (Guaranteed Peer-Reviewed Content).

Foreword by Richard McGregor
Analysed Compositions

Part I - Style
1 Between Classical and Individual
Individual Position
Specific Terminology and Tools
Generative Pole and Generated Elements
Generative Pole versus Rewriting and Overwriting
Single Event
Focal Pitch and Focal Pitch Aggregate
Process and Planning
Relationship between Form and Structure
Conclusion of the Composition

2 Between Modernism and Postmodernism
Position towards Postmodernism
Position towards Modernism
Musical Backgrounds in Modernism and Nineteenth Century
Philosophical Influences in Postmodernism
Philosophical Influences in Modernism

3 Musical Traces
Dealing with Allusion and Quotation
Verbal Allusions in the Chiffre Cycle
Allusion to a Style: Baroque
Allusion to a Composer: Varèse
Allusion to a Composition: Schubert’s Octet

4 Fine Arts
The Music of Painting
Fine Arts Parallels: Different Viewpoints
Fine Arts Parallels: Rihm’s Viewpoints
Line Drawing
Layering and Overpainting
Large Drawing
Kurt Kocherscheidt
The Sound of Wood

5 Repetition
Create a State by (non-)Repetition
Repetition as Questioning
Repetition as Writer’s Block
Repetition as Unique Event
Repetition versus Generating Elements
Repetition in the Context of Style

6 Nature and Proportions
Proportions in Nature
Symmetry and Balance
Proportions in Music

7 Studying Proportions
Dis-Kontur, Sub-Kontur and Klavierstück Nr. 4
Schwebende Begegnung
String Quartet no. 4
Proportion Typology

Part II - Analysis
8 Integrated Approach
Sound as a Whole
Some Examples
Integrated Analytical Tool
Moment Analysis of the Chiffre Cycle

9 Parameter Characteristics
  Melodic Compositions
  Melodic Element
  Micro-interval Dissonance
  The Tritone-Triad
  Chord Chain
  Informal Harmony and Texture
Tempo – Metre – Rhythm
Dynamics – Articulation – Timbre
  Youth Experience
  Timbre and Resonance
  Resonance and Fine Arts

10 String Quartet in the 1980s: String Quartets nos. 5-8
Aesthetic viewpoints
Group Formation versus Individual Quartets
Common First Note f#
The Importance of Pitch f#
Transitions in String Quartet No. 5
Transitions in String Quartet No. 6
Transitions in String Quartet No. 7
Transitions in String Quartet No. 8
Closing Pitch
Two Pairs of String Quartets
Notebook Quartets: Hidden Structure
String Quartet no. 7: Arch Form
String Quartet no. 8: Structure based on Fibonacci Series

11 Group Formation: Chiffre Cycle
The Meaning of “Chiffre”
Chiffre: a Cycle

12 Chiffre Cycle: Harmony
The Tritone-Triad
Chromatic Cluster
Harmonic Rhythm and Chordal Density
Consonance versus Dissonance
Focal Pitch

13 Chiffre Cycle: Resonance
Chiffre I: Resonance Space versus Sound Space
Chiffre IV: Resonance Research
Chiffre VIII: Meta-resonance
Sound Space

14 Chiffre Cycle: Cyclic Elements
Cyclic Elements: Typology
Repeated Passage
Overwritten Passage
Repeated Single Instrumental Part
Cyclic Elements: Similar Event
Returning Concept
Cyclic Elements: Three Figures
Figure 1: Generated Elements
Figure 2: Generated Elements
Figure 3: Generative Poles and Generated Elements

15 Chiffre Cycle: Symmetry
Melodic Symmetry
Rhythmic Symmetry
Time Signature Symmetry
Harmonic Symmetry
Total Symmetry
Symmetrical Placing

16 Chiffre Cycle: Proportions
Tempo Indications
Tempo Changes
Time Signature
Proportions in the Chiffre Cycle
Proportions in Chiffre I
Proportions in Chiffre II
Proportions in Chiffre III
Proportions in Chiffre IV
Proportions in Bild
Proportions in Chiffre V
Proportions in Chiffre VI
Proportions in Chiffre VII
Proportions in Chiffre VIII
Proportions in Nach-Schrift
Proportions of Length in the Chiffre Pieces
Comparison: Chiffre II, V and VI
Comparison: Chiffre II and VII

Final Conclusions
Appendix – Division in Sections
Selected Bibliography
General Index
Index of Compositions by Wolfgang Rihm

Format: Monograph - ebook

340 pages

printed music items

ISBN: 9789461662378

Publication: November 26, 2017

Languages: English

Yves Knockaert is professor of history of music, philosophy of music, and contemporary music and researcher at LUCA School of Arts, Campus Lemmens (Leuven).
'ook voor minder geschoolde lezers heeft het vele boeiende aspecten [...] Rihmologen zullen er vast dankbaar gebruik van maken'
OpusKlassiek, Emanuel Overbeeke , januari 2018