Composer: Trevor Bača.
Forces: ob, Eb cl (bass cl), pf (hpschd), perc, vn, va, vc.
Duration: 18 minutes.
Page 33 of Krummzeit (2014) for seven players.
The following inscription, written by the composer, appears at the head of the score:
Trees mark time in the twists they make over the course of branches’ growth.
Arms rise sinewy in their turnings-to-sky to fall earthward again
in a tracery of parts and of the slow-moving shapes of time.
The piece is about time and about the ways the flow of time changes the colors and sounds and loudnesses we hear in music. Fourteen materials circulate through the piece. Piano chords resonate with the echo of other instruments; plucked strings fall from high to low and then rise again back up; broken bits of counterpoint pile up between the oboe, clarinet, harpsichord and violin; long notes in the viola and cello give way to the rustle of brush bristles; stones travel in circles across hard pieces of slate brought into the concert hall from outside. Running through these materials (and the others that stack up on and between them) is the arrow of musical time. The gnarled time that runs through the piece shares something with the time that grows the branches of trees towards the sky and then turns them heavy towards the ground with age: in the shapes of branches left over at the side of the trail we experience in a glance the distillate of years. So goes the analogy with the course of musical time in the piece: the materials and their colors pass us by in shapes that are the fantastic leftovers of something we no longer see.
The winds & percussion are tranposed. The E♭ clarinet sounds a minor third higher than written and the bass clarinet sounds a major ninth lower than written. The xylophone sounds an octave higher than written. (But note that the violin, viola and cello are all written at sounding pitch even for the low notes of their scodatura.)
Prioritization of tempo. The proportions between tempi should be as exact as possible (even though the choice of tempi are to some extent a matter of the preferences of the ensemble and the acoustics of the hall). In addition, the tempi of the very fast parts of the piece should be played as closely as possible to the tempi written in the score: it is preferable to play the dense figures in very fast parts of the piece as something of a blur rather than slowing the tempi to attack each of the notes carefully. Speed and forcefulness of tempo must take priority throughout the piece.
Oboe & clarinet. All trills are color trills. Color fingerings are given as circled Arabic numerals with greater numbers indicating greater deviation from normal timbre.
Piano and harpsichord. The pianist is asked to switch between piano and harpsichord throughout the piece. The two instruments should be positioned right next to each other so that the pianist can switch rapidly. Register settings for the harpsichord are encouraged even though none are given in the score. Piano and harpsichord clusters are all chromatic.
Percussion. Seven instruments are required: (1.) a single crotale (pitched in D♮); (2.) a piece of slate scraped by an even smaller piece of slate or another stone; (3.) a snare drum (played with the fingertips and never with sticks); (4.) a large sponge whisked across the suface of a bass drum; (5.) a single suspended cymbal (pitched as low as possible and played with a soft yarn mallet); (6.) a tam-tam (as large as possible); (7.) and a xylophone. A few of the switches between instrument are extremely fast. In cases where it is not possible to effect the switch as quickly as written, the last few notes of the previous material should be sacrificed so that the first few notes of the next material begin on time. The five-line staff always indicates the xylophone.
Strings. The the lowest strings of violin, viola and cello are all detuned: the lowest string of the violin should be taken down one semitone to F♯4; the lowest string of the viola should be taken down two semitones to B♭2; and the lowest string of the cello should be taken down three semitones to A♮1. In addition, the violinist is asked to play on a large piece of slate at one point in the piece; the slate (and small stone used for scraping in a circle) are to resemble those of the percussionist as closely as possible. Tremolo are all fast and uncounted.