20 Randall

Compose Yourself
J. K. Randall

J. K. Randall (1929- ) is an American composer of electroacoustic music. He taught at Princeton University from 1957 to 1991. This excerpt from Randall's magnum opus Compose Yourself - A Manual for the Young first appeared in the journal Perspectives of New Music in 1972, when it's informal and unsettling style caused a major supporter to withdraw his financial support of the journal. The purpose of the excerpt, as can best be conveyed, is to present a phenomenological description (or one might say experience) of Act II, Scene I of Richard Wagner's opera Götterdämmerung.

As for the excerpt itself: Wow. That about sums it up. No wonder the prominent patron withdrew his money. You have to look really deep to understand this excerpt, and even then, it's still not clear. Every little punctuation mark, parenthesis, bracket, and onomatopoeia (and even the placement of these items on the physical page) represents something. John Rahn, Professor of Composition at the University of Washington, calls J. K. Randall a pioneer of the so-called "analog mode of musical discourse." Take for instance the first footnote in the piece:

1. (pfung! ; !pfung(

John Rahn, in speaking about this footnote states: "Note that, purely formally, the repetition of the left parenthesis serves to confirm a retrograde-symmetrical structure, while semantically throwing the reader forward." This type of analysis most certainly applies to the entire work.

The "continuous visual space" and "manipulation of a continuous sense of time" ensures that every aspect of the page denotes a difference between symbols. It's almost as if we are to hear, through Randall's quasi stream-of-consciousness, yet very carefully laid out excerpt, Richard Wagner's music - simply by reading what he has placed (not written) on the page. Phenomenological indeed.

For more of Randall's insanity, click the following link:

shouldn't we talk?

Sources:

music inside out: going too far in musical essays

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