Ingvar Karkoff (1958)

FOUR DUETS for lutes(1985)

Four Duets for two lutes was composed in 1985, for the lutenists featured on this album. I composed these pieces after a period of working exclusively with electro- acoustic music. In returning to instrumental music I was searching for simple melodic expression based on the natural scale.
Each of the four duets is very distinct in character but they share a common ground in a more or less spherical and slightly mysterious tone world.
The first duet, which is the longest, evokes an intimate poetical mood where the sense of time is sometimes almost completely effaced.
The second has a metrical dance rhythm to which I could imagine small Punch-and-Judy puppets dancing.
The dolorous melodic repetition heard in the third duet is suggestive of a music box; this movement was inspired by Stockhausen’s Tierkreis . In strong contrast to the preceding three, the last duet could be described as slightly naive and wildly comical.

Ingvar Karkoff

John Cage (1912)

Dream (1948)

Cage wrote this peice for piano: here it is performed in a version for archlute and bass viol by Peter Söderberg. The arrangement is in fact an augmented version of a transcription for lute solo, where the added bass viol part accentuates the piece’s long lines and atemporal character, creating an almost stationary pedal under the melody. Although the two parts are synchronised and sometimes appear to be in complete unison, they are also opposites, existing in distinct spaces: while the lute’s melodic lines flow constantly, the bass viol’s interpolations between the melodic phrases make time come to a halt.

This work is hardly typical of Cage. Its more or less continuous melodic lines and rigourously limited pitch structure set it far apart from the music characterised by chance operations and a preoccupation with individual sounds which Cage was to devote himself to a few years later.

The rythmic structure of the music derives from a dance piece by Merce Cunningham. It can also be seen as an early manifestation of the influence of Cage’s study of Zen buddhism and Indian philosophy which was to become so pervasive in his later work.

Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928)

Tierkreis (1975)

The twelve melodies in Tierkreis, each of which represents one of the signs of the Zodiac, were originally composed for music boxes. They also appear in the composition Musik im Bauch for percussion. They can also be played on any instruments or performed by singers, and Stockhausen has arranged them for a variety of ensembles. He says:

"I began to busy myself with the 12 human characters of the Zodiac of which I had until then only a vague idea. In inventing each melody I thought of the character of children, friends and acquaintances who were born under the various star signs, and I studied the human types of the star signs more thoroughly. Each melody is now composed with all its measures and proportions in keeping with the characteristics of its respective star sign, and one will discover many legitimacies when one hears a melody often, and exactly contemplates its construction."

Stockhausen’s intention is that each melody should be played several times, but rather than the strict repetition of a music box, the musicians are expected to create different versions of the melody each time, varying it in such a way as to bring out its specific character. In this version for two lutes each melody is played three or four times, once in its original form and then with alterations conceived by the musicians themselves.

Steve Reich (1936)

Piano Phase (1967) transposed for two lutes

Reich’s Piano Phase is a direct outcome of his work with tape pieces in the mid-sixties where he used phase-shifting. He says:

"My problem then was to find some new way of working with repetition as a musical technique. My first thought was to play one loop against itself in some particular canonic relationship since some of my previous pieces had dealt with two or more identical instruments playing the same notes against each other. In the process of trying to line up two identical tape loops in some particular relationship, I discovered that the most interesting music of all was made by simply lining the loops in unison, and letting them slowly shift out of phase with each other."

Reich tried using this technique with a combination of live instruments and tape, but also found that it was fully feasible for two musicians, without a tape recorder, to execute a similar progression.

Piano Phase can be seen as the final step in a series of compositions using

phase-shifting, which also marks Reich’s transition from tape music to purely instrumental composition. Of this development he himself says: "Looking back on the tape pieces that preceded Piano Phase I see that they were, on the one hand, realizations of an idea that was indigenous to machines, and on the other hand, the gateway to some instrumental music I would never have come to by listening to any other eastern, or for that matter, non-Western music."

Piano Phase is here performed in a version for two theorbs. The instrument’s natural resonances are exploited to the full: almost the whole piece is played on appropriately tuned open strings, one for each note in the pattern.