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Further Explication of the Nono Affair

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To the editors:

Ross Feller wrote a letter which appeared here a few weeks ago [August 21] accusing me of "improvising" the "Post-Praeludium per Donau" for tuba and live electronics by Luigi Nono, which I had performed at the Goethe-Institut's concert series last April.

If Mr. Feller hopes to forge a career in new music he should learn the difference between sketches and the completed score. The so-called score which Mr. Feller said he "availed" himself during my performance was my copy of Nono's handwritten sketches. These fragments do contain cryptic-looking instructions all in German or Italian, which if Mr. Feller had even a passing fluency in either of those languages would of had some clue on the aleatoric freedom the work allows.

So it is understandable that Mr. Feller was quite confused by my performance in that what he saw--looking over the shoulder of the sound technician--was not what he supposedly heard.

At the time of his death in May 1990 Nono had left this work incomplete. The work's dedicatee Giancarlo Schiaffini however was able to reconstruct these fragments.

I spoke numerous times with Mr. Schiaffini long distance in Rome relating my interest in preparing the first performance in this country. So I was quite excited when he agreed to send me his working notes and his completed score. He also sent me his recording of the work so I, with technician Tom Lucckese, could reproduce the sophisticated reverb-echo sound decay system where the tuba sounds "shoot" between the sound speakers. Nono would like a computer system to track these sound "travelings."

At these Goethe-Institut concerts I explain quite informally each work, its creative-aesthetic impetus, why it is unique, how the performers deal with the differing notational systems, and ground rules for each new work. I had explained that the "Post-Praeludium" does have aspects of aleatoric freedom where the performer need not read the pages--actually just Part A--from left to right, but may "travel" using different "percorsi" or paths each leading to either a normal tuba sound, a falsetto note, a sung tone, a multiphonic. The result should be a rich contrapuntal interplay of all these sonic colours put through the electronic prism of the reverb and 30 second decay. I had explained this prior to my performance, but I guess Mr. Feller had his mind elsewhere.

It is indeed unfortunate that Mr. Feller wrote his sincere letter under a total misunderstanding of what I, Mr. Lucckese, and Luigi Nono were trying to do, because there were many aspects in our performance one could have taken issue with, for instance our lack of computer hardware, in Part B the low C was not really sustained imperceptibly as the score requires, the microtones shading the reverb, and the lack of the building up of these microtonal clusters. Had Mr. Feller had the score I'm sure he would have called me on these aspects of our performance.

I was invited to perform this work in Europe, and I promise I will do a much better job. In the meantime Mr. Feller should attend the lecture I intend to give on Luigi Nono at Northwestern University this coming winter.

Frank Abbinanti

Chicago

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