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Sensei does it, presumably, for the love of the shamisen, whose practice is a dying art that she feels goes unappreciated in Japan. It also has a way of sliding out of tune during play; given the lack of fretting, the player must depend on ear and intuition to correct it when it does. There was hope. As someone not overly familiar with traditional Japanese music, I enjoyed learning about the shamisen; fans of memoirs about craft, performance and music are likely to enjoy this.
There are public performances, but also the private jealousy of rival students and resulting dramas.
Seuil de silences
Underneath it all, there is the resounding, lingering question of when the pause will end, of the mastery of instrument and self, and when it is time, at last, to go home. When the listener focusses intently, wisps of sound can become expressive characters, silhouetted against an empty expanse. This otherworldly music does not necessarily sound alien.
Many Wandelweiser composers feel free to dwell on a sweetly consonant interval or chord. Such gestures are a departure from Cage, who generally allowed tonal materials only as meaningless flotsam and jetsam, and from his ally Morton Feldman, who treated them as melancholy relics.
The Sound of Silence
The composers enact a kind of double rebellion, both against a mainstream audience that pines for tonality and against an institutionalized avant-garde that spurns it. Through that twin negation, Wandelweiser breaks with the past, and is exerting a powerful influence on music of the new century. The founders—Antoine Beuger, of the Netherlands, and Burkhard Schlothauer, of Germany—had met at a far-left commune in Austria, and established a slightly cultish atmosphere from the start.
Some Wandelweiser pieces could be mistaken for obscure meditation practices.
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If played from end to end, the work would last for well over five hundred hours, although so far it has been performed piecemeal, in different cities, page by page. Craig Shepard, who directs the Music for Contemplation series, in New York, undertook a project in which he walked across Switzerland for thirty-one days, writing a solo trumpet piece each day and playing it that evening.
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In some ways, Wandelweiser is not so much a style as a life style. Other scores are of more manageable size. In the Second Quartet , bows barely touch the strings, and pitches are blurred by eccentric fingering. Minor-mode harmonies emerge, but they have a whispery, spectral character.
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