Andrew Rudin: “Peitho”
From the album Tragoedia (1969)
The late 1960s witnessed the true coming of age of electronic music. While new instruments had been developed since the beginning of the century, and widespread production began to percolate in the wake of the Second World War, it wasn’t until albums such as Morton Subotnick’s Silver Apples of the Moon (1967) and Wendy (née Walter) Carlos’ Switched-On Bach (1968) that electronic music reached the public ear on a massive scale.
Andrew Rudin’s composition Tragoedia appeared hot on the heels of Subotnick’s record, which it followed in Nonesuch Records’ groundbreaking series of commissions for original, album-length works of electronic music. Subtitled “A composition in four movements for electronic music synthesizer,” the large-scale structure of Tragoedia is based on the four fundamental emotional processes of Greek tragedy. While describing the work as an example of program music, however, Rudin cautions that the music “does not relate to any specific drama or event but attempts to explore those actions and devices through which tragedy is evoked.”
Rudin’s career up to the creation of Tragoedia transected a rich and fascinating period in the history of avant-garde music in Philadelphia. After undergraduate studies in which he was heavily influenced by the music of the Second Viennese School and Igor Stravinsky, Rudin went to the University of Pennsylvania in order to work with George Rochberg, who had recently become chair of the music department there. (The idea of Rochberg as a modernist beacon is somewhat ironic in light of his later notoriety as a poster boy for the neo-Romantic revival of the 1970s.) Rudin also studied with Karlheinz Stockhausen, who taught as a visiting professor for one semester, and George Crumb, who joined the department in Rudin’s final year there. He may also have crossed paths with future pioneering sound artist Maryanne Amacher, who was an undergraduate at Penn in the early 60s.
Around this time, Rudin became familiar with the experimental stage art of the American choreographer Alwin Nikolais. Nikolais had recently purchased one of the first commercially available Moog synthesizers for use in his synaesthetic theater productions, and he demonstrated the machine for Rudin. Soon thereafter, at Rudin’s invitation, Robert Moog came to Penn and oversaw the construction of an electronic music studio in the basement of the Annenberg School for Communication. Tragoedia was produced not at Penn, however, but at the electronic music studio at the Philadelphia Musical Academy (later absorbed into the University of the Arts), where Rudin had taken a position as director of the Electronic Music Center.
The third movement, “Peitho,” which means temptation or persuasion, is a study in perpetual motion built around skittering chromatic figures. Its formal structure was inspired by the third movement (“Purgatorio”) of Gustav Mahler’s unfinished Tenth Symphony. The eerie and evocative textures of Rudin’s music quickly found their way into the cultural bloodstream: snippets from Tragoedia were used by famed Italian director Federico Fellini in his 1969 film Satyricon.
Played 149 time(s).
December 28, 2012, 6:52pm