May 08, 2014
What is aleatoric music? Before today, I had never heard of it; but, I don’t think I’m alone. As I write this blog, spell check is alerting me of a misspelling and has “no suggestions.”
Music in which some element of the composition is left to chance, and/or some primary element of a composed work’s realization is left to the determination of its performer(s). The term is most often associated with procedures in which the chance element involves a relatively limited number of possibilities. Wikipedia
In other words, roll the dice and see what happens.
Sounds like a disaster, right? Wrong! There are many successful examples of aleatoric music in classical music and otherwise. Let’s run through some of the top contributors:
Henry Cowell Experimental classical music, Aleatoric music
Mircea Florian Psychedelic folk, New Wave, Avant-garde jazz
Leo Brouwer Folk music, Film score, Atonal music
Also, in this category is 20th-century Polish composer Lutosławski, who was inspired deeply by the aleatoric methods of American composer John Cage. In this month’s #LACO205 podcast, music director Jeffrey Kahane and composer-in-residence Andrew Norman compare the aleatoric methods of John Cage and Lutosławski. The podcast concludes with a live rendering of aleatoric music featuring Kahane and Norman on piano performing a 25 second composition by Norman.