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Speculum Speculi


SPECULUM SPECULI (1972) was written, as its title indicates, for the then newly formed New York ensemble,  Speculum Musicae, a second generation  descendent of Wuorinen's own  ensemble, The Group for Contemporary Music. Speculum Speculi ("Mirror of  the  Mirror") was first  presented  on  14 January  1973 in Grand  Forks, North  Dakota,  during  a  Speculum Musicae  tour.   Speculum Speculi is a  mixed instrument  sextet for flute, oboe, bass clarinet, contrabass, piano and percussion (vibraphone, 4 drums, and 3 gongs).  For  the original Nonesuch recording (currently available on a Music & Arts CD) Wuorinen wrote the following:

"Speculum  Speculi  is a single, sectionally divided continuity. But it is not "symmetrically" arranged; rather each  successive section  of the work transforms all of what has gone before. . . The piece begins with a  slow monophonic  statement  of its twelve-tone set in which the time-intervals between successive notes are in direct proportion to the pitch intervals that also separate them. For a second variation, a related set-form is added to a speeded-up transformation of the opening, so that  a  two-voiced,  more  rapid music is produced. The third variation transforms both the first and the second, adjoining further material as well: every new section transforms all that has gone before it.  Thus  the  work (albeit in a non-linear way) grows ever denser, and ever  faster,  as  more and  more  material is necessarily compressed to fit it into a reasonable  time frame.  But  each new transformation,  since it always returns for its matter to the very beginning  of  the  piece, preserves  a  distinct  vestige  of  the single-line opening, whose  pitch  and  rhythmic  nature  though recurring at different speeds -- remain clearly recognizable."

Wuorinen  goes  on to write "The foregoing, however, is meant only to provide an  initial entry into  the work, for I do not propose that it be heard only as a recurring set of transformations.  .  .the  listener, in his response to the music, must ultimately assume active responsibility for  what it means to him. Once a work has left its maker, it follows its own life."

-Howard Stokar

"made so forceful an impression that it could hardly be ignored even by those who do not care for contemporary music.... This work for flute, oboe, bass clarinet, piano, double-bass and percussion is full of energy and has an urgency about it that simply cannot be ignored ... its jots and jolts of woodwind colors and drum beats, melodic fragments, contrasts of register and many other elements come together in a vivid musical fabric that insists, quite successfully, on the integrity of its form and the importance of its existence." Allen Hughes, New York Times