Chou Wen-chung

Amériques (1922)


The manuscript’s style of notation and format for scoring is retained except where practicality demands the sharing of staves by instruments or a more conventional placement of instruments, such as harps placed above rather than below the percussion. Varèse’s penchant for using at random four languages (French, Italian, German, and English) is retained, except for the nomenclature of the instruments on the first page. As was the common practice at the time, the manuscript employs an abundance of cautionary but redundant accidentals. This style is retained, though unnecessary redundancy is removed wherever reasonable.

Varèse’s notation for quarter-tones on pp. 50-51 (viola solo) and on pp. 55-556 (viola tutti) is flat-½-accidental and accidental-½-sharp for a quarter-tone below and above pitch, respectively. For practical purposes, these signs are replaced with modernized Tartini accidentals, Tartini accidental - flat and Tartini accidental - sharp, respectively. In the indication for mutes, whether for brasses or strings, Varèse often repeats sordino or senza as a matter of caution — a procedure that creates confusion. Such notation has been edited, with all repetitions placed in parentheses. Instrument transposition conforms to the practice of the time, except for the Alto Flute, which is identified as in G, while the part is written in C and marked “sons réels.” (It is noteworth that the opening motive is built on the hexachord on G as well as half of the cycle of fifths on C.)

The manuscript originally includes an E-flat oboe and an oboe d’amore, both of whose parts Varèse deletes. Their parts are incorporated in that of the 4th oboe. Judging from what can be discerned of the remnants of these parts in the manuscript, both are of a tutti, rather than solo nature. Varèse’s interest in these instruments is apparently in exploiting as many instruments as are available in the double-reed family, as he has also done in this score with the families of clarinets and trumpets. On the other hand, the inclusion of percussion instruments such as the cyclone whistle, steamboat whistle, crow call, rute, and siren are for their individual and characteristic sounds, and therefore requires the use of authentic and genuine instruments rather than modern substitutions.

The difference between the original and revised versions is most, but not only, notable in the size of the orchestra. Aside from the seven off-stage fanfare brasses which are replaced in the revised version, the original instrumentation requires seven more woodwinds and some of the percussion instruments cited above. Other differences include passages in which the two versions contain different material, and passages made more concise or modified in the revised version. There is a consistent relaxation in the revision’s tempo marks: the revised tempos are often slightly slower. Occasionally, there are also adjustments in duration in the revised version, moderating an extremely short note-value by a notch, for example. Dynamic levels for the same passage may also vary, often moderately. In some passages, though, the revision can be drastic, as at p. 58 m. 5, for example, where the ff for the clarinets is changed to a pp in the revised version. Indications for mutes also vary occasionally between the two versions. In all cases, this edition adheres to the manuscript except where an error is verifiable.

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