Inventing fragments, manipulating time

Scheuregger, Martin (2015) Inventing fragments, manipulating time. In: The Making of Musical Time: Temporality in Musical Composition and Performance (Orpheus Institute), 25-26 Feb 2015, Ghent, Belgium.

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Paper)
Item Status:Live Archive


Various forms of musical brevity exist in twentieth-century and contemporary music – fragmentation is, perhaps, one of the most intriguing. The notion of the fragment as distinct from the miniature is important: a miniature is akin to a portrait in a locket (a tiny work that shares the features of a life-sized painting); the fragment is a part of the larger painting that has been torn away, not showing a whole picture but merely hinting at it. By using fragmentation in composition, composers can partake in the fragmentary in a number of ways. David Metzer describes two types of fragment: the ‘remnant’ (a fragment from an original whole) and the ‘invented’ fragment. Musical works using fragmentation may draw on remnants of extant works, but many invent their fragments.

This paper will explore how musical time is manipulated by the use of the ‘invented’ fragment in my own compositions, focussing on a set of three interlinked works that utilise short movements characterised by splintered phrases and forms. By being in themselves short whilst suggesting larger forms, these fragments simultaneously speak of ultimate brevity and invoke the almost infinite. By framing this fractured material in a variety of ways, the perceived flow of time is manipulated as the music rapidly moves from one movement to the next. The manner in which this is achieved and the potential perceptual affects will be explored with audio-visual illustrations of the works in question.

Further context will be given by drawing on issues raised in a recent edition of Contemporary Music Review – ‘Musical Narratives: Studies in Time and Motion’ – and highlighting analytical observations drawn in my article on György Kurtág's Kafka Fragments, a work that creates continuity through a network of cross-references and careful structuring of 40 fragments. By comparing extant notions of fragmentation, observations from Kafka Fragments and insight into my own compositional practice, some light will be shed on how creating fragments can allow composers to manipulate the perceived flow of musical time.

Keywords:Temporality, Time, György Kurtág, Twentieth Century Music, Contemporary Music
Subjects:W Creative Arts and Design > W300 Music
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts (Performing Arts)
Relation typeTarget identifier
ID Code:25438
Deposited On:02 Feb 2017 14:31

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