Don't worry if you haven't heard of him. When I mentioned him to many of my musician friends, they had no idea who he was. But you may have heard some of his music if you saw Shutter Island. It was on there with a bunch of other modern greats, including a few of my other favorites, Gyorgy Ligeti and John Cage.
The music puts me into a different world. Meditative, transformative, transcendent. He is best known for writing music based around only one pitch, altered in all manners through microtonal oscillations, harmonic allusions, and changes in timbre and dynamics, as paradigmatically exemplified in his revolutionary Quattro Pezzi su una nota sola ["Four Pieces on a single note"] (1959). (I stole that last sentence verbatim from wikipedia. I didn't use quotation marks. I feel like a criminal.)
During his "second period," Scelsi had begun composing through sheer improvisation, which was recorded and then transcribed. Scelsi came to conceive of artistic creation as a means of communicating a higher, transcendent reality to the listener. From this point of view, the artist is considered a mere intermediary. It is for this reason that Scelsi never allowed his image to be shown in connection with his music; he preferred instead to identify himself by a line under a circle, a symbol of Eastern provenance. (How about that. I stole almost all of that, too!)
Have you ever felt saved by a piece of art? Because I have... it was Scelsi's Krishna from Four Illustrations for piano solo. And it's not that I think of Scelsi as god-like, or anything like that. Just sometimes nothing makes sense, and then you trip on a piece of art, and suddenly everything makes sense again. And I don't know why it makes sense... I can't verbalize, or even wrap my brain around what makes sense... it just feels like it makes sense. This is the power of art, folks.
So after I rediscovered Scelsi, I ordered some parts right away. And tonight, I did a little sight-reading of Krishna. And immediately plunged into this very Scelsi inspired improv.
Here we go, Day 23: https://ia600703.us.archive.org/32/items/Improv9611/9_6_118_17Pm.mp3
And my dad JUST sent these pictures to me with a slew of old photographs from the 70's when my mom and dad were visiting Thailand. I wish they would come out a little bigger on the blog. Oh well.