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1933 __ Ecuatorial
Edgard (Edgar) (1883-1965)
Comment : The piece is originally composed for 4 trumpets, 4 trombones, Percussion, Organ, Piano, 2 Theremins and Bass voice. The use of the Theremins in the original score is significant. By 1927, Varèse was interested in the use of electronic instruments, in particular, the Dynaphone, invented by René Bertrand, and the instruments invented by Leon Theremin. For the composition of Ecuatorial Varèse had Theremin build two instruments to his specifications, with a massive range that extended all the way up to 12,544.2 Hz (G9). According to a statement of O. Vivier, during the work with Theremin, Varèse asserted: “I will compose no more for instruments to be played by men: I am inhibited by the absence of adequate electronic instruments for which I conceive my music.” In the second version of Ecuatorial, the Theremin-instruments were replaced with two Ondes Martenot. Another change was the shift from a single bass voice to a small bass choir singing in unison. Varèse must have felt certain problems with the balance between the instrumental ensemble and the bass voice, which required the substitution of the solo voice for a small choir. In fact, at the premiere of the piece at Town Hall in New York, April 15, 1934, Chase Baromeo sang the solo bass part with amplification through a loudspeaker. At the next performance of the work, in 1961, the score had been rewritten for 8 solos singers. [Brian Kane]. Ecuatorial is the first piece in the history of music of the 20th century in which the fusion of acoustic and electronic sounds was attempted. The crossing of the border – between tone and noise, between instrumental and electronic sound, between music and speech, between dynamics and rhythm, between harmony and tone color, etc. – that defines an especially important direction in the composition-research of the last 30 years, was pre-programmed in Varèse’s Ecuatorial. It would not be an exaggeration to assert that his proposal for the instruments and for the music of the future – which were still utopian at that time – have been successfully realized by the “Recherche musicale”. (Ivanka Stoianova)Leon Theremin (or Lev Termen) is mostly known for having invented the musical instrument that bears his name. It is composed of two aerials which allow you to control the height and the intensity of the sound by moving your hands in space. But he also developed several other instruments, among which the Theremin Cello, an electrical cello (whose other name is Fingerboard Theremin) he invented in the early thirties. Two Theremin cellos were meant to be used in the original version of Ecuatorial by Edgard Varese, created in 1934. In that work they were later replaced by two ondes Martenot. It should be remarked that the orchestra director Leopold Stokowski asked Maurice Martenot and Leon Theremin to build bass electric instruments in order to include them in his orchestra in Philadelphia. A contact tape (a flexible plastic film) placed all along the key allows to play about five octaves (as with a one-string cello). You must bear in mind that Leon Theremin was a cellist. So was Maurice Martenot. A wooden stick, fixed in the instrument body (a reminder of the bow) , allows to command the intensity of the sound by pressing on it with your right hand. The instrument is connected to a lamp amplifier. Several knobs placed on the instrument body and behind the amplifier guarantee great precision in the command of the tuning and of the sound quality and are also used to adjust the base volume. (Thomas Bloch)
French comment : French version :. (Ecuatorial pour voix de basse ou chœur d'hommes et ensemble, créée le 5 avril 1934, New York, Town Hall, par Chase Baromeo : basse, direction : Nicolas Slonimsky. Chœur d'hommes, 4 trompettes, 4 trombones, 1 piano, 1 orgue, 2 ondes Martenot, 6 percuss)Leon Theremin (ou Lev Termen) est surtout connu pour être l'inventeur de l'instrument qui porte son nom. Ce dernier est composé de deux antennes qui permettent de contrôler la hauteur et l'intensité en déplaçant les mains dans l'espace. Mais il a mis au point un certain nombre d'autres instruments, dont le Theremin cello, un violoncelle électrique dont l'autre nom est le Theremin à touche (Fingerboard Theremin). Inventé au début des années 1930, deux d'entres eux étaient notamment destinés à être employé dans la version originale d'Ecuatorial d'Edgard Varèse, créée en 1934. Les Theremin-celli furent ensuite remplacés par deux ondes Martenot dans cette oeuvre. Notons que le chef d'orchestre Leopold Stokowski proposa à Maurice Martenot et à Léon Theremin de construire des instruments électriques basses pour les incorporer à son orchestre, à Philadelphie. Un ruban de contact (un film plasique flexible) situé tout le long de la touche permet de jouer environ 5 octaves, comme sur un violoncelle monocorde. Rappelons que, tout comme Maurice Martenot, Leon Theremin était violoncelliste. Une tige en bois fixée dans le corps de l'instrument et qui rappelle l'archet permet de contrôler l'intensité en appuyant sur celle-ci avec la main droite. L'instrument est relié à un amplificateur à lampes. Plusieurs boutons situés sur le corps de l'instrument et à l'arrière de l'amplificateur permettent de contrôler finement l'accord, le choix du son et un réglage de volume de base. (Thomas Bloch)
Source : Stoianova, Ivanka (1986), “Edgard Varèse: Ecuatorial”, Melos, vol. 48, no. 4, 1986, p. 59.
Urls : http://www.browsebriankane.com/My_Homepage_Files/Download/Varese%20paper.pdf (last visited ) http://www.thomasbloch.net/f_theremin-cello.html (last visited )

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