Hortus conclusus


10,12-30, 2022






less than 5'



A necessary instrumental extension, derived from the tradition of the organ in liturgy, is chant harmonization: four staves that serve to harmonize the cantor, though most often expressed in an alternative intonation to emphasize the "microtonality" of the phonetic, the "firmus." This is essentially taking the alternative intonation found in the previous effetto notation and creating a separate instrumental fabric.

It creates a harmony where one is not apparent in the existing soundscape, a situation that does not yet exist. The effetto melds with the sound of the voice, an expression of the inharmonicity within it, and the armonia serves as a reaction to, a confirmation of, an existing harmonic fabric, especially in the context of sections with vocal polyphony. The firmus is not meant to blend with or confirm anything, it is a free expression that is merely tied to the word rhythmically, but is otherwise free to be a pure tone.

It is the furthest that I can get from the word as the root of the musical soundscape without severing the resultant music from the word and destroying its purpose. The final form of the distance from the word is one without texture or shape. When music is tied to a word, it serves it, it acts within it, embraces it; it is part of that word, the harmonic inner life of it giving form. Without a word, music exists without rhythm, dynamics, phrasing, vibrato, color, shade, contour... it is pure sound. The firmus becomes these tones: pure sound.

The microtonality is meant to be negotiable, which is why I specify by cents to give a sense of direction instead of supplying accidentals that represent absolute distinction. Though I have a vision of the result, notation is transcription. Everything is a means towards a sound, not the sound itself.

I finally have found what I really want, to return to this world that was lost after the Renaissance, one embracing enharmonicism and shade while still retaining the deeply emotional impact of vocal music.

The hortus conclusus does represent my ideas quite well: the experience of the garden is self contained, and is a section of the greater experience of life. The voice is the plant that takes root, and I am its caretaker. It can be organized, trimmed, and pruned by man, but, even in a garden, nature cannot be shaped forever. It wants to grow out in manners and patterns that don't always align with our expectations of harmony and symmetry. The beauty resides in what is inherent to the plant, not in what we attempt to coax out of it. The garden is a sandbox for the ideas and beliefs of man: how we treat it reveals our expectations of Eden.

So I write "short" music, I'd prefer to put is as a plant within a greater musical garden. Life itself is a series of tableaux, we tend to find some sense of connection and progression in retrospect. I'd rather not though; a garden is nice to lie in for a while.

Sean Patrick Ignatius Tartaglia