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Hyperprism

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Edgard Varèse

Edgard Varèse (ed. Richard Sacks)


Subtitle: For 9 Wind Instruments and 9 Percussion Players


General Info

Year: 1922-23 / 1986
Duration: c. 4:00
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Confranc, through Ricordi
Cost: Score and Parts - Rental


Instrumentation

Full Score
Flute
Oboe I-II
B-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Trumpet I-II
Horn in F I-II-III
Trombone I-II
Percussion (10 players), including:

  • Anvil [Enclumes]
  • Bass Drum [Grosse Caisse]
  • Chinese Cymbal [Cymbale Chinoise]
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Indian Drum [Tambour Indien]
  • Lion Roar [Tambour à Corde
  • Rattle (large, small) [Crécelle]
  • Siren [Sirène]
  • Slapstick [Fouet]
  • Sleigh Bells [Grelots]
  • Snare Drum [Caisse Claire]
  • Suspended Cymbal
  • Tam-Tam
  • Tambourine [Tambourine Basque]
  • Triangle
  • Wood Blocks (2) [Blocs Chinois]


Errata

None discovered thus far.


Program Notes

Edgard Varèse experienced a compositionally fertile period between 1922 and 1925, with premieres of Offrandes, Hyperprism, Octandre, and Intégrales by New York City’s International Composers Guild. While all the Guild concerts were well attended and considered successes, Hyperprism helped Varèse achieve a notoriety rivaling Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps premiere. As writer Eric Salzman notes, “Hyperprism brought the audience to blows and Varèse to a new kind of fame. The music was violently attacked, but it also had its defenders, notably Lawrence Gilman of the New York Herald Tribune and Paul Rosenfeld, critic of The Dial, a leading literary periodical of the day.” Composer Charles Martin Loeffler penned a bit of begrudgingly positive critique:

It would be the negation of all the centuries of musical progress if I were to call this music ... Nevertheless ... this piece roused in me a sort of subconscious racial memory, something elemental that happened before the beginning of recorded time. It affected me as only music of the past has affected me.

Some of the more acidic invective labeled the work as, “shrieks from a zoo, the din of passing trains, the hammering of a drunken woodpecker, a thunderbolt striking a tinplate factory.” However, Hyperprism was championed by Leopold Stokowksi who conducted the work both in Philadelphia and New York; he went on to conduct several successive premieres of Varèse’s music.

The title of the work does not infer any specific meaning, although it evokes scientific or geometric imagery. However, just as a prism scatters light, so Varèse’s musical process scatters musical fragments amongst two groups -- percussion instruments and wind instruments. In each section in the work, both groups have defined roles: primary, secondary, solo (with the other group tacit), and co-equal.

- Program Note from State University of New York, Potsdam, Crane Wind Ensemble concert program, 15 March 2018


Media


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


Performances

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Works for Winds by This Composer


Resources

  • Varese, E.; Sacks, R. (1986). Hyperprism: For 9 Wind Instruments and 9 Percussion Players [score]. Colfranc Music: New York.