Although Mario Davidovsky (b. 1934) is a US composer and violinist, he was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina and moved to the US in 1958. A pioneer in electronic music, his early compositions involved magnetic tape, which he manipulated to assemble sounds in his desired sequence, controlling tone color, intensity, and duration of the sounds. In 1961, he began combining prerecorded electronic music with live performers on traditional instruments. This idea is demonstrated in one of his best-known works, Synchronisms, a series of electroacoustic compositions written over a span of 30 years. The sixth won a Pulitzer Prize in 1971. Influences on his compositions include two of his teachers, Milton Babbitt and Aaron Copland. The ability to record allowed an important breakthrough; sound could be frozen in time, and reused as a structural foundation for other music.
Since the 1970s, most of his compositions have been for traditional instruments and voice, but Synchronism No. 10 (1992) returned to the combination of guitar with prerecorded electronic sounds. This guitar solo begins with an opening motif that continues throughout the piece. It is changed by the use of harmonics, strummed chords, hammerings, and numerous other guitar techniques which represent certain modes of attack and create various percussive effects. The taped electronic sounds do not enter until halfway through the song on page 5 of the score, where they interact with the guitar.
Pages 2-5 are at the bottom.
When comparing Steve Reich’s Different Trains (1988) Movement II –Europe During the War, the use of electronics is quite different. Instead of introducing the sound as another instrument to play with as in an ensemble as Davidovsky does, Reich uses the pre-taped voices to intersperse the repetitive words and sentences within the piece. The air raid siren-like noise rises and falls throughout the entire movement, with the violin punctuating the words of the voices.
I was familiar with some of Davidovsky’s earlier electronic works, but really enjoyed learning of his traditional pieces. He was also a featured composer in one of my Latin American seminar readings.
Clark, Walter Aaron. “ Latin American Impact on Contemporary Classical Music.” Musics of Latin America, edited by Robin Moore. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2013.
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