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  DOUBLE tenuto!  Christopher Tin at 08:35 on 14 April 2007

Hello everyone,

I stumbled across this forum while looking for a place to express my astonishment at having seen something I'd never seen in a score before. I was listening and reading through Adès' 'America - A Prophecy,' and in bar 233 of the first movement, in the mezzo-soprano part, there's a dotted quarter note with TWO tenutos over it.

Anyone seen this before? Is this now a common thing in contemporary scores, that I've just been oblivious to?



  Re: DOUBLE tenuto!  James McFadyen at 21:04 on 14 April 2007

Hi Chris - welcome to the forum.

I've never seen the use of a double tenuto in a score.

It may be technique he has made up as it simply doesn't make sense to have a tenuto twice over the note to mean 'long' or 'legato'.

Try to listen to the bar in question and see if you can hear what the effect is and try to imagine it without a (double) tenuto. If you can't hear a difference, then perhaps someone should let Adès know.

  Re: DOUBLE tenuto!  Christopher Tin at 22:33 on 14 April 2007

The only thing that I could think of is that perhaps he's meaning to use the tenutos to imply light stresses, as they happen all over the solo soprano line. Perhaps he intends for the double tenuto to mean an even stronger stress.

Next time I get a chance to look at the score, I'll see if it pops up again.

  Re: DOUBLE tenuto!  James McFadyen at 08:43 on 15 April 2007

What, like an accent?!

Quick, someone send a rudiments of music to Adès!


  Re: DOUBLE tenuto!  scott_good at 23:33 on 15 April 2007

"What, like an accent?!"

From my perspective, when interpreting the meaning of a tenuto, I usualy think (depending on the particular situation) that this means a certain amount of stress, but, not in the front, like an accent, but rather within the body of the note. Perhaps a bit of intensity in vibrato or some other kind of sustaining musical effect, or perhaps the way the note fits in the phrase. Certainly full in duration, but, if there were no tenuto marking, it may also be full value (really, why not?).

I think that a number of markings have more meaning than their text-book definition. Staccato to me does not just imply half the value - this can easily be done with the notation of note - but, implies short in the body - to achieve a certain kind of envelope of sound that has a quick decay.

example: An 8th note with tenuto should sound different than a quarter with a staccato.

Ades - I think, Christopher, you may be correct, and it's a clever assertion, but, it could also be a copyist cack. (I have never run across this notation).

  Re: DOUBLE tenuto!  Christopher Tin at 07:29 on 16 April 2007

Okay, just scanned the score happens in more than one place, and in one spot, it actually happens with an ACCENT as well. Doesn't seem like a copyist mistake.

(Adès seems to have no qualms about liberal applications of accents...a lot of notes have all three of the major accidentals--stacc, ten, and marc--on them, and he even puts a tenuto on a struck tam-tam note....which really strikes me as being rather odd.)

And Scott, I agree, a lot of times tenutos are interpreted as a little 'push' in the middle of the note....but going back to the tam-tam hit, I don't really see how one can put a little push on the inside of a single strike.

If we were talking about, say, a vibraphone run, and some of the notes in the middle had tenutos over them, *then* I could see giving them a slight accent, or perhaps even dragging the rhythm of the notes just a bit....but when you're talking about a single tam-tam hit? There's no real context to help you define it.

  Re: DOUBLE tenuto!  scott_good at 13:18 on 16 April 2007

well, depending on where you strike a tam tam, and, which mallet, the "bloom" of the ring will be different.

  Re: DOUBLE tenuto!  Christopher Tin at 16:52 on 16 April 2007

Good point.

  Re: DOUBLE tenuto!  Team Gaughan at 16:14 on 17 April 2007

There was a forum on Ades before.

While Ades has written some fine music I think he is also sometimes trying to be clever for the sake of it. I have also had a look at the score in question.

One of his piano pieces (Traced Overhead) at one point goes onto 6 staves! Its complex but not that complex and impossible to read, 2 or perhaps 3 staves would suffice. His recent works have been all effect, clever scoring & 'unusual instruments' (ie: contrabass clarinets, accordians, bass oboe).
and very little else (pieces such as the violin concerto, The Tempest and even Asyla).

I find him totally overrated and its a shame other composers out there are not getting his publicity such as George Benjamin.

  Re: DOUBLE tenuto!  James McFadyen at 17:48 on 17 April 2007

With all due respect to Ades, I detest composers who try and be 'clever' - it is never the best way to write music.

I wish people would stop with all the wierdness and write some 'music'. Anybody with a musical education can write all that clever music, but it takes a composer of great skill and creative power to write a piece of music with clean(er) harmonies, beautiful melody lines and counterpoint that is more sensible and logical.

It does no harm to study Fifth-species counterpoint again. It may be outdated to a large extent but by God, it gets you thinking like a composer!

Any thoughts?

  Re: DOUBLE tenuto!  Christopher Tin at 17:52 on 17 April 2007

To Adès' defense, though (and I'm somewhat of a fan, even though my music sounds nothing like his), it's also important that there are composers out there who *do* try out 'clever' new techniques, and that extends to interpretive notation.

Twenty years from now, everyone might be doubling up on their tenutos, in the same way that things like tam-tam scrapes and col legno are now common.

  Re: DOUBLE tenuto!  scott_good at 20:12 on 17 April 2007

James, I have some thoughts. Sorry, but I have a penchant for arguing.

"With all due respect to Ades, I detest composers who try and be 'clever' - it is never the best way to write music."

I don't get this. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Berlioz, Mahler, Prokofiev, Ligeti were all very clever (+ many, many others), and I think that they wrote some really great music - some of the best when "trying" to be clever.

I don't understand what is wrong with being clever.

"I wish people would stop with all the wierdness and write some 'music'."

Perhaps it is a difference in opinion as to what the word "music" means. Reading Cage had a strong impact on me, I suggest you give it a go with an open mind, you may end up discovering new musical possibilities and pleasures.

Also, your wish will not come true (unless some fascist state takes over), so I would recommend to stop fighting it.

"Anybody with a musical education can write all that clever music, but it takes a composer of great skill and creative power to write a piece of music with clean(er) harmonies, beautiful melody lines and counterpoint that is more sensible and logical."

These are all noble musical endeavors, but is it not possible that music can express ideas and emotions, yet be messy, and/or non-melodic, and/or static. What about Gamelan music (no melody)? What about jazz (messy at times)? What about Japanese Noh (very minimal, lots of silence)? Are you saying that as a music artist, we are to only draw influence from the western European Classical music tradition?

(I noticed that you write techno stuff, so, obviously you are aware of some of these ideas - from what little i have heard, it is music which often has no melody, or counterpoint - mostly rhythm, colour and harmony).

"It does no harm to study Fifth-species counterpoint again. It may be outdated to a large extent but by God, it gets you thinking like a composer!"

Well, I seem to be at odds with almost everything you state. I will agree that study of 16-18th century counterpoint is a good thing to do, but I don't think that species counterpoint is the best way to learn it. In my opinion, it is guilty of your general accusation - clever without substance. It is anti-composer. Perhaps some insight into counterpoint technique can be achieved, maybe it helps shape a phrase breaking up a line into fundamental parts, but, I'm not sold.

I suggest you read Robert Gauldin's "A practical approach to 16th Century counterpoint" - it is brilliant. The reader will get a more fundamental and broad understanding of this music, the history and relevance of the techniques. Also, it deals with rhythm in it's association with text, not some arbitrary 1 to 1, 2 to 1 totaly obvious rhythmic/countrapuctal structure - much more for the composers imagination to work with. Honestly, after I studied Gauldin's book (and fortunately with him as a teacher), I throughly understood this music, and left with a broader understanding of each composer's own unique identity.

  Re: DOUBLE tenuto!  James McFadyen at 07:35 on 18 April 2007

I guess that doesn't leave much hope for Paul McCartney and John Lennon.

They were not trying to be clever, they were trying to write good music. And that, my friend, doesn't take a doctorate degree.

Let's just agree to disagree.

  Re: DOUBLE tenuto!  Christopher Tin at 07:44 on 18 April 2007

Okay, well, not to be a spoil-sport, but Lennon and McCartney (and Sir George Martin) did *plenty* of 'clever' things!

Just listen to songs like 'A Day In A Life' and 'Strawberry Fields Forever'....or even 'Revolution 9'! Don't tell me there isn't some wild, groundbreaking and totally unprecedented stuff there. (At least in pop music, anyway.)

('For The Benefit of Mr. Kite,' any of the Shankar inspired stuff....the list goes on and on.)

  Re: DOUBLE tenuto!  James McFadyen at 08:36 on 18 April 2007

OK, sure perhaps my use of 'clever' was not taken in the way I meant.

I meant clever in the respect of Ades et al, deliberately pushing the boundaries of musical notation... re: double tenuto. Theres genuinely clever, or just being clever for the sake of being clever. The latter is what I'm talking about.

Indeed, I think we should be clever when writing music, but as long as it can be substantiated with musical logic and most important of all -COMMONSENSE!!! Some of the most cleverest people in the world have little commonsence.

It may be that the double tenuto has a meaning ( a meaning that Ades has made up) and has stated this at the start of the score. On the other hand if there is no indication as to what he wants apart from these two tenutos, then he has left much room for debate and error which is kind of ironic since he has done it because he wants a specific sound/articulation.

One of my fav pieces of all time is Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima, the musical notation has been invented, but at least Penderecki gives you a chart to say what everything means.

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