I recently had cause to mention my tempo canon for two pianos (or piano and tape), The Convent at Tepoztlan, and it occurred to me that the poor piece hadn’t seen the light of day in 17 years. So I took a few spare hours and put it into Sibelius notation, which was a pain in the neck, because the two parts (performed with clicktrack) are out of kilter by a tempo ratio of 23:24. I had to input one part in an invisible 23:24 tuplet, and since Sibelius won’t copy partial tuplets or paste into tuplets, there was no efficiency involved in its being a canon. (Of course, I’m still using Sibelius 2; if Sibelius 5 is improved in that respect, I’d appreciate hearing about it. I’m resisting upgrading because I don’t like how long the sounds seem to take to upload in newer versions.) And since the meter is 5/4, and 5 doesn’t divide into either 23 or 24, I couldn’t justify measures and staves in either part. Does anyone know if true multitempo (or multi-meter) music is getting any easier in notation software?
In any case, a score to The Convent at Tepoztlan is now available. I think I might not post an mp3, since the sole recording used a tape part made with 1989 MIDI technology, and I would only get comments on its hokiness. It’s an odd piece for me because the structure of the canon (pianos starting together, diverging, switching tempos, and coming back, at the canonic interval of a minor third) imposed a more audible, somewhat Bartoky architecture than I’m accustomed to use. It wasn’t my first tempo canon – I wrote a slow, soft, Feldmanish one in college, at a time I’m not sure I’d even heard any Nancarrow – but I’ve never written one since. I’m curious as to whether my readers know of other tempo canons besides:
- the two dozen Nancarrow wrote,
- the couple I’ve written,
- Lou Harrison’s 1941 Fugue (though per its title this may be more tempo fugue than strict canon, I can’t remember and don’t have the score handy),
- Jim Tenney’s Spectral Canon,
- Larry Polansky’s Four-Voice Canons,
- the augmentation canons in The Musical Offering,
- and the remarkable Agnus Dei from Josquin’s Missa L’homme armé super voces musicales reprinted in HAM.
I remember years ago Ron Kuivila had an electronically generated piece based on the idea called Loose Canons, a title I much envied, and I also recall once a live performance by “Blue” Gene Tyranny in which material he played was echoed by a sped-up recording in real time. We should make another list! (I’m not going to count Ockeghem’s Missa Prolationem, because a prolation canon and tempo canon aren’t really the same thing; once Ockeghem moves into faster note values, the voices all end up at the same tempo.)
UPDATE: OK, in response to overwhelming demand from David Toub and Marc Geelhoed – come on, guys, slow down the e-mail barrage already! – I’ve put up an mp3. The tape part was sequenced in 1989 on old Voyetra Sequencer Plus software – anyone remember that? – with a Yamaha DX7, onto a four-track cassette recorder. Sounds like I was living in the 19th century (but at least I wasn’t using Italian expression markings). The pianist is the superb Judith Gordon of Essential Music, but the recording is hardly better than the MIDI realization. Let it serve as a cautionary example, a reminder of primitive times.