In my recent post on my new trio I said of the form of the composition:
Fragmentary form and counterpoint. More interestingly, though, how does this fragmentary and minimally different form relate to my thinking on counterpoint as such? I think it comes down to the fact that, since I have need of weakening the whole in favour of the parts, I am tending more and more towards ‘sections’ that are in a sense deprived of their identity so that they don’t dominate the lines, so the lines are not subordinate. This is to do with dereifying things and allowing lines of force and continuation. There’s the ‘musique informelle’ dimension as well: that the tendency in the materials themselves should be primary, not externally imposed concepts. But it’s also a matter of having the relationship between the horizontal formal parts and whole as complex, supple and dialectical as the vertical polyphonic relations. Just as in counterpoint, the totality on the formal level is one of opposing or contradictory forces and is a mediated unity, not a simple and immediate one.
Of course, depriving sections of their identity or guiding concepts is, while necessary in a respect, also a problem, insofar as the overall effect of each section can tend towards a weakness of articulation – can fall flat and sound lifeless. The question, then, is how to write sections that are effective, articulated and compelling, and yet do not have a clear identity or concept to which the components would be subordinate. Then the question is how to construct longer forms that allow this overall strategy of minimal difference to have the overwhelming effect it seems to imply.
Here’s a quote from Adorno’s musique informelle article that seems to be in accord with this kind of thinking:
What is meant [by musique informelle] is a type of music which has discarded all forms which are external or abstract or which confront it in an inflexible way. At the same time, although such music should be completely free of anything irreducibly alien to itself or superimposed on it, it should nevertheless constitute itself in an objectively compelling way, in the musical substance itself, and not in terms of external laws. (p. 272)