Composed in , Edgard Varèse’s Ionisation is the first piece of Western classical music to be scored for an ensemble comprised solely of. Compared to those monuments, the French-American composer Edgard Varèse’s “Ionisation” barely amounts to a flyspeck. The work’s Sheet Music – £ – Edgard Varèse – Ionisation (Percussion Ensemble).

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Reinforcement, evocation, and colour From Bach to Brahms, the job of the percussion section in the orchestra had basically been to reinforce the accents already present in the musical exchange among the other instruments. September 30, at The radical, innovative nature of the work was such that the New York Philharmonic percussionists who were approached to perform Ionization soon proved unable to cope with the work, and typesetters had to be called in to complete the task!

Some dozen of his compositions are groundbreaking works, among them Ionizationthe first score in western music composed for percussion ensemble. Frank Zappa often claimed that Ionisation inspired him to pursue a career in music.

To find out more, including how to control cookies, see here: Giant strides in percussion Beginning inat a time when percussion instruments in the orchestra experienced unprecedented development, composers began using these instruments in response to influences as diverse as Slavic folklore or the freewheeling use of the drum set in ragtime groups.

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Ionisation (Varèse, Edgard) – IMSLP/Petrucci Music Library: Free Public Domain Sheet Music

From cymbals to sirens Ionization is composed for 13 musicians playing some 40 instruments. Yet what is striking about this piece of music is the degree of sensitivity with which the composer controls the instrumental timbres, achieving an understated grace and eloquence of expression which reaches far beyond more common functional uses of percussion.


This music is at once expansive and intimate, ugly and irresistibly beautiful: In opera or program i. You are commenting using your Twitter account.

Ionisation (Varèse, Edgard)

The World’s Encyclopaedia of Recorded Music. You are commenting using your Facebook account. It was, incidentally, the first album purchased by Frank Zappa. All these great strides forward, astonishing as they may have been, were just the beginning.

Below is a recording of Ionisation followed by a brief listening guide. Ionisation then dissolves away in a shimmering vatese of decaying gongs, disappearing into the same fog from which it rose. Studia Musicologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae.

By the s he had become a veritable guru of twentieth-century musical creation. Ionisation features the expansion and variation of rhythmic cellsand the title refers to the ionization of molecules.

Inthe work became widely accessible through a successful 78 rpm issued by Columbia Records. His preoccupations heralded those of composers born after Retrieved from ” https: Not only did it herald the liberation of the percussion section from its traditional supportive role; it was a turning point in musical vocabulary. September 13, at 5: This site uses cookies. One critic described the performance as “a sock in the jaw. Retrieved 30 August The current vogue was for the neoclassical sonatas and concertos of Milhaud, Poulenc, and Stravinsky.

There are those indefinite in pitch, like the bass drum, snare drum, wood blocks, and cymbals; those of relatively definite musical pitch, such as the piano and chimes; those of continually moving pitch, like the sirens and ‘lion’s roar.

He had settled in the United States in As the composer later described, “I was not influenced by composers as much as by natural objects and physical phenomena. Nicolas Slonimsky conducting Ionisation in Havana. Pierre Grondines is a musicologist and choral conductor.


It demonstrated how powerfully a genuine musical idea can be expressed in new sounds. Indefinite pitch Nearly all the percussion instruments used in Ionization generate indefinite pitch, so that most of their vibrations can’t be clearly identified as a D or a G, for example.

His predilection for sounds outside the traditional scales was shared by electro-acoustic musicians, continually experimenting with new intervals. The Gramophone Shop Encyclopedia. Views Read Edit View history.

Ionisation (Percussion Ensemble)

Well, that would count as part of the larger piece, rather than a stand-alone piece in and of itself. Three other instruments appear only in the last bars of the work: Leave a Reply Cancel reply Enter your comment here Ionisation proceeds as a number of miniature sections, each with a different textural character.

Having moved to America at the age of 32, the French-born composer was deeply affected by the aural experience of living in urban New York. By continuing to use this website, you agree to their use. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Following a brief interruption from 0: The next section begins at 2: Ionization was a brilliant confirmation of percussion as an independent musical medium. The ominous opening of rolling bass drums and gongs gives way at 0: Journal of Music Theory.

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