Kenneth Gaburo

Antiphony IV  (1967)

The era of music immediately following 1945 has been marked by an extraordinary amount of experimentation as well as investigations of new ways of expression.  Traditionally, the uses of instruments have tended to imitate the voice.  However, in the twentieth-century composers have considered the reverse, as has been amply demonstrated in the vocal works by Webern, whose wide angular melodies require an extraordinary amount of virtuostic technique in execution.  While in the post-1945 period a recon-
sideration of vocal resources has been evident among numerous composers including Crumb, Boulez, Davies and others, developments of tape and electronic music have enabled additional alternatives and possibilities. 

A direct anology may be drawn between timbres obtained from the human voice as well as electronic synthesizers in that both resources are capable of producing pitched/periodic as well as non-pitched/aperiodic waveforms:  pitched waveforms correspond to vowel sounds, while non-periodic waveforms correspond to consonant sounds.  Timbre design in synthesizers often requires numerous envelopes of various waveforms that are then amalgamated to result in a more complex timbre that
appears to be one sound.  Therefore it would be rather simple to construct a timbre which begins with an attack of a non-pitched waveform immediately followed by a pitched waveform.  The result would be similar to a syllable of a word of similar characteristics, such as "pa." 

However, the advent of tape-splicing techniques when considered with the study of linguistics has enabled composers to isolated different parts of phonemes after they have been recorded on tape.  In pieces such
as Stockhausen's Gesang der Junglinge , phonemes have been recombined in such a way as to form new words.  This isolation of phonemes has been quite influential upon numerous composers, and illustrates one example in which techniques characteristic of instruments and electronics have in turn been imitated by the voice, which is a turn-around from the traditional relationship.  While this concept has been reabsorbed into the acoustic domain by some composers, there has been a large body of electro-acoustic literature which explores the interaction of the relationships between electronic and voice timbres.  Among the more well-known pieces include Reich's Come Out, Babbitt's Philomel, and Berio's Visage. Philomel and Visage, in particular, explore this relationship explicitly.

These early electro-acoustic works influenced the composers of the 1960's, among them Kenneth Gaburo, whose Antiphony III  and IV  explore this cross-relationship between tape and voice.  While Antiphony III  involves the interplay of chorus and tape, "Antiphony IV  calls upon a wider range of resources, the instrumental elements, used in both live and tape parts, extending and characterizing further the pitched inflections of the vocal material."  (Manning)  The unusual instrumentation requires an ensemble of voice, piccolo, bass trombone, double bass and tape, while an elaborate exploration of phonemes is involved.  The tape is divided between right and left channels, with no events occurring "between" the loudspeakers.  The score of the work represents tape events in graphic notation.  The left channel, composed of recorded vocal sounds and electronic processing of these sounds, is represented in the score by phonetic symbols, while the right channel is composed of synthesized sounds and is represented by geometric shapes that correspond to various parameters. Performance requires that the instruments be amplified.

The integration of electronic, instrumental and vocal sounds has resulted into a field of relationships which Gaburo terms "compositional linguistics," referring to a multiplicity of meanings;  one such meaning is
the "physio-acoustic domain of vocal transmission in the case of Antiphony IV ."  (Wennerstrom) 

The concept of the work explores the meanings of the title.  ". . . Gaburo  states that this work is not a paraphrase nor a literal representation of the poem, but presents a fluctuation ('antiphony') in thought between the poem and the composition as two separate entities." (Wennerstrom) The source of phonemes of the work is from a poem, written by Gaburo's wife, Virginia Hommel:

    Poised above the sea as if to drop


              heavy, hot


    Gaining strength

    And pours forth in soaring chill illusion!

While the work is included in Wennerstrom's Anthology of Twentieth Century Music , it remains rather obscure.  References to the work in electronic music sources are rare and limited.  Schwartz:  ". . .live ensembles are used in wildly inventive fashion, a perfect match for their prerecorded electronic counterparts;  the musical and spatial balances. . .draw the listener into a path of cross play, imitation, and analogy. . .Gaburo's treatment of vocal sounds is highly imaginative."  Manning does not offer any
further insight into the work, and in commenting on the work refers to Gaburo's influences:  ". . .he took a keen interest in phonetics, exploring vocal transformations in a manner yet again owing much to the influence of Berio."

Gaburo, on the other hand, goes into the piece in quite some detail in his liner notes on the Nonesuch recording: 

... a complex of non-mass signals are given-non-density... weight opposition-such that the output is clearly A-B stereophony . You are bombarded with isolated phonemes, words, word-chains, and sound utterances.  You are required to assemble these by way of a mental juggling activity (hence antiphony) until the necessary links to form a linear version of the poem obtain.  Once the process of extraction or assemblage is complete, a final antiphonal level is possible: Antiphony  is the state of fluctuation between the total music and the poem as poem, particularly with regard to the sound and meaning.. It is trivial to assert that music and poem can never be placed in a one-to-one correspondence-the one is neither a representation not a paraphrase of the other - however, there does exist a state of poetic transference  between the two (an antiphony which cannot be resolved, but since I am in between them, I delight in trying and lament at the impossibility of resolution).

Whether or not Gaburo's statements have anything to do with music is a fact that is yet to be determined, although this would require a certain amount of analysis.  While at a superficial level "antiphony" refers to
the more obvious spatial relationships, it is apparent that this work has a multiplicity of interpretations regarding "antiphony."

After listening to this work several times without using the score, I then listened to the work several times with the score.  What is significant is that my point of view as a listener was dramatically altered.  Without the score and using only the recording as a reference, the relationship between the "live" and tape parts is rather obscure due to the fact that there is no way to distinguish between voice parts on the tape and
voice parts which have been performed "live."  No doubt a live performance of this work would help to make these relationships more apparent.  However, what is even more striking is the extent to which the work has been precisely notated.  Previous to viewing the score the instrumental parts seem to be improvised within a set time-field.  After viewing the score, the high degree of imitation between the instrumental parts is particularly striking, and is quite audible upon further listening.

One point which is worth commenting on, is Gaburo's divisin of the work into 21 "sections."  While some of these divisions may be audible, some are not.  Perhaps, as Wennerstrom suggests, after parametrically
graphing the growth of this work some justification for these divisions may be apparent.  However, this type of analysis has little bearing upon the listener, being an avenue for further serious exploration.


Gaburo, Kenneth.  Music for Voices, Instruments & Electronic Sounds.  Nonesuch H-71199.

Manning, Peter.  Electronic and Computer Music.  Oxford:  Clarendon Press, 1985.

Schwartz, Elliott.  Electronic Music:  A Listener's Guide,  Revised Edition. New York:  Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., 1975.

Wennerstrom, Mary H.  Anthology of Twentieth-Century Music.  New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1969.