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 Post subject: William Duckworth Time Curve Preludes
PostPosted: Sat May 03, 2008 5:07 am 
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I recently performed a few of William Duckworth's Time Curve Preludes, which are considered by some to be the first post-minimalist pieces written. The set is divided into two books of (surprise) 12 preludes each. For those of you not familiar with post-minimalism (and too few are), a brief summary can be found at http://www.newmusicbox.org/page.nmbx?id=31tp05

If you want to read a bit about the preludes themselves, Kyle Gann wrote the CD liner notes which can be found at http://www.lovely.com/albumnotes/notes2031.html

As Duckworth is not represented on this website, I thought it might be good to include his bio. This is taken directly from his website at http://www.monroestreet.com/duckworth/bio.html

EDIT: I neglected to mention that I am hoping to perform the entire set, which runs about an hour. I'd just need a venue and audience, then, as it certainly wouldn't make for a very good degree recital.

Duckworth - Time Curve Preludes, Prelude III ( 2:28 )
Duckworth - Time Curve Preludes, Prelude IV ( 2:14 )
Duckworth - Time Curve Preludes, Prelude V ( 2:29 )
Duckworth - Time Curve Preludes, Prelude VI ( 4:36 )
Duckworth - Time Curve Preludes, Prelude VII ( 3:15 )


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William Duckworth is the composer of over 100 pieces of music, and the author of six books and numerous articles, the most recent of which is "Making Music on the Web" (Leonardo Music Journal, Vol. 9, Dec. 1999). In the mid 1990's he began Cathedral, a multi-year work of music and art for the web that went on-line June 10th, 1997. Incorporating both acoustic and computer music, live webcasts, and newly created virtual instruments, Cathedral is one of the first interactive works of music and art on the web. It can be found at www.monroestreet.com/Cathedral.

As a composer, Duckworth is considered the founder of Postminimalism, and his hour-long Time Curve Preludes for piano defines the postminimal style. Since their 1979 premiere, these preludes have been heard on five continents, including the Spoleto Festival USA, where they were performed during the first live webcast ever given from the festival; the Festival of Havana, where they were broadcast in the streets; and New York's Merkin Hall, for the 20th-anniversary celebration of their premiere. The most recent performance took place in Tokyo in the Fall of 2001 The Village Voice said Duckworth's preludes are "likely to be one of the 20th century piano cycles most often performed in the 21st." Musical America called them "a work of captivating beauty", and described listening to them as "hearing a kaleidoscope."

William Duckworth's first appearance in Europe was at the 1984 Pro Musica Nova festival in Bremen, Germany. More recently, he has been a member of the composition forum at Darmstadt, has given master classes in Rome, and was a featured composer at the 1995 Ferrara Festival. He has also recorded with the Electric Phoenix in London, and supervised the bi-continental premiere of his Gathering Together/Revolution, for mallet percussion, keyboards, and drums; a two-part work written in the summer of 1992 and the winter of 1993 for Rome's Ars Ludi and New York's Essential Music, respectively. The Village Voice called the result "a compositional landmark: the first chance-determined postminimal moment form."

As a performer, Duckworth participated in the 1992 Cagemusicircus, a John Cage memorial concert at New York's Symphony Space, playing Cage's Speech on a short-wave radio, while Laurie Anderson read from the daily papers. He also closed the 18-hour marathon performance of Satie's Vexations, presented by the New York downtown club Roulette in 1993 to honor the 100-year anniversary of the work. The New York Times said Duckworth "played with uncanny steadiness and stillness." Recently, Duckworth founded the Cathedral Band, a component of the Cathedral project that includes New York pianist "Blue" Gene Tyranny, and Seattle's DJ Tamara and Stuart Dempster. The band gave its first New York performance on April 1, 2000, live and on the web from Roulette.

Born in North Carolina in 1943, William Duckworth was educated at East Carolina University and the University of Illinois, where he studied composition with microtonal composer Ben Johnston, himself a student of John Cage and Harry Partch. Duckworth is a past recipient of the Walter Hinrichsen Award, endowed by C.F. Peters Corp. (1984), and has held both an NEA Composer Fellowship (1977) and an NEA Collaborative Fellowship (1983). The last was to compose Simple Songs About Sex and War with Hayden Carruth, winner of the 1997 National Book Award in poetry.

Duckworth currently holds a position at Bucknell University, teaching computer music composition, and a class in 20th-century American music called Jazz, Rock, and the Avant Garde. A 1992 Rolling Stone magazine profile called him a "hip, bright, innovative" teacher who "opens up worlds" students never knew existed. Duckworth is the author of six books including two textbooks on music theory for Wadsworth Publishing Company (one of which is in 7th edition), plus 20/20: Twenty New Sounds of the Twentieth Century (New York: Schirmer Books, 1999); Sound and Light: La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell Review, 1996); John Cage at Seventy-Five (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell Review, 1989); and Talking Music, Conversations with John Cage, Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson, and Five Generations of American Experimental Composers (New York: Schirmer Books, 1995).

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PostPosted: Sat May 03, 2008 10:10 am 
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Are the twenty seconds of silence after the prelude number three part of the piece? This kind of music seem to take a lot of concentration, but it's more interesting than I expected. How was the resonance of the audience? Did they enjoy it? Your performances are technical flawless, but I think it's really difficult to entertain non-pianists with this music :lol: But thanks for sharing, this was something different!

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PostPosted: Sun May 04, 2008 12:44 pm 
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There are some long pauses between preludes. I don't know if it's picked up after compression, but something I neglected to mention above was that the piece calls for up to seven low bass keys to be held down throughout each prelude. The end of each piece, then, is not after the last note I play but after these sympathetic vibrations become inaudible.

Reception of these works was actually quite good, and that includes some old ladies from my church. That was partly what drew me to these pieces. They seem to be easily accessible, at least compared to what most people are used to when they think of music since 1945.

I will say that they were a bear to memorize, for while they were repetitive, the slight variations and even incessant counting (as in 4 and 6) made it difficult to stay on top of where I was. So if I do perform the whole set, I think I'll use the score.


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PostPosted: Sun May 04, 2008 1:12 pm 
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AndyLeeG4 wrote:
I will say that they were a bear to memorize, for while they were repetitive, the slight variations and even incessant counting (as in 4 and 6) made it difficult to stay on top of where I was. So if I do perform the whole set, I think I'll use the score.


Hehe, probably nobody will remark if you improvise here and there.... :wink:

This thing with the bass keys which have to be hold down reminds me to this Sonata from Vine which was recently posted here, I think it's interesting to play around with the effect of downholded keys, I just love pressing keys slowly down and shouting at the piano :lol: .....

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PostPosted: Sun May 04, 2008 1:36 pm 
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Interesting compositions. I like a few of them. Thanks for sharing. What piano did you play on? Also it sounds like a nice microphone setup.

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PostPosted: Sun May 04, 2008 4:39 pm 
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Not sure what is "post"-minimalist about these. I am not an expert on minimalism, but to my ears, the preludes 3, 4, and 6 could well be by Reich or Ten Holt. No. 5 sounds like like post-Bartok more than anything else. Fascinating sonorities. How do you keep these low strings vibrating ? Sostenuto pedal, or someting extra in the grand ?
I don't like the last one. The insistent and demonstrative bitonality wears thin quickly and seems to serve no musical purposes.

Masterfully played, and nice to hear something else for a change. Whether this is for repeated listening. I doubt - except for some aficionados. I will put these on the site shortly.

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PostPosted: Mon May 05, 2008 3:25 pm 
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Some great comments so far. Thanks for sharing.

As to the "post" aspect, since these are some of the first such pieces there are definitely transitional elements. I think one of the most important things is that the processes are buried and hard to pick up on without repeated hearings. For my taste, they certainly reflect minimalism, but keep in mind that even the earliest keyboard works by Reich or Glass tended to be quite long, whereas the longest of this entire set is 4.5 minutes. I think the listening experience is rather different, too, between minimalism and post-minimalism. With minimalist music, I tend to get lost in the music, just letting it sort of wash over me, for lack of a better description. I don't anticipate what's coming or think back very much, just enjoy the moment. With these works, I find that I'm not able to "settle in" the same way. It's hard to know what's coming as they aren't as predictable, so while I anticipate where the piece may be going, those expectations aren't always met (like with any good music, for that matter). In other words, my perception of the passing of time is rather different between these two related genres...

Ok, don't get me started as I could write a lot on the subject.

As far as the piano, it's a 9-foot Steinway. What's interesting is that the tone of the piano is very different due to the resonance of these bass notes that are held down. I need to post the Mozart sonata I also played on this recital so you can hear the difference even though the piano is the same.

Oh, and someone asked about how the keys were held down. I didn't use the Sos. as other preludes required it usage otherwise. The score calls for weights to be placed on certain bass notes for each prelude. I found that the best thing that worked were big fishing line weights, which are made of lead and worked pretty well.


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PostPosted: Mon May 05, 2008 4:21 pm 
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AndyLeeG4 wrote:
I found that the best thing that worked were big fishing line weights, which are made of lead and worked pretty well.



are you joking?

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PostPosted: Sun May 11, 2008 6:31 pm 
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At long last I have put these up the site. PLese check if everything is in order.

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 Post subject: Re: William Duckworth Time Curve Preludes
PostPosted: Thu Oct 06, 2011 6:15 pm 
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Just thought I'd post a quick update that I have finally gone ahead commercially recorded the complete set of these preludes. You can stream them all for free at http://bit.ly/qEXX72

Of course, the live recordings that have been posted here are still available to download for free. :D

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My Latest CD of William Duckworth's Time Curve Preludes - http://bit.ly/qEXX72
My CD of Ann Southam: Soundings for a New Piano - http://bit.ly/noVr7S
My CD of Tom Johnson: An Hour for Piano - http://bit.ly/dF1Ywq
Professional Site - http://randrewlee.com


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 Post subject: Re: William Duckworth Time Curve Preludes
PostPosted: Tue Jan 03, 2012 3:27 am 
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Thank you so much for the audio files! I listened to these files through my floor standing speakers, and they sounded absolutely terrific! You are very talented Sir, and I really enjoyed listening to these pieces. They were all very well constructed, and dynamically vibrant. I look forward to hearing some more of your work in the very near future. I will be keeping an eye out!


Last edited by Lory on Thu Jan 05, 2012 11:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: William Duckworth Time Curve Preludes
PostPosted: Wed Jan 04, 2012 11:20 am 
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I liked these preludes (or most of them) and the concept of minimalism. It is refreshing to hear something not over produced focusing on the theme and with the free form of a prelude. Well played too even though I have no reference on Duckworth's music.

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 Post subject: Re: William Duckworth Time Curve Preludes
PostPosted: Wed Jan 04, 2012 6:52 pm 
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Thanks for the comments. Glad you're enjoying the recording (and also glad I'm able to at least offer free streams to people).

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My Latest CD of William Duckworth's Time Curve Preludes - http://bit.ly/qEXX72
My CD of Ann Southam: Soundings for a New Piano - http://bit.ly/noVr7S
My CD of Tom Johnson: An Hour for Piano - http://bit.ly/dF1Ywq
Professional Site - http://randrewlee.com


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