Interestingly, while both Debussy and Varèse were attracted to Eastern music which fuels their desire to achieve a greater freedom and expressivity in their music, Berio in his Sequenza appears to be in the mainstream of European avant-gardism of the 1950’s but is in reality moving closer to the spirit of Asian solo music.
In Cursive the esthetics of both calligraphy and ch’in music have influenced the treatment of individual tones as well as their interrelations. A sense of freedom and independence for each instrument is also obtained through the use of individual but coordinated tempi for the two instruments, the use of non-proportional note-values, and the use of intensity according to the natural character of each instrument.
Just as the movement of the brush that pursues the overall design in calligraphy while spinning off details of local interest, the progression of the modes in Cursive not only defines the background structure, but also generates derived modes for foreground textures and layers of motion. Just as the flow of ink on paper, where line and density emerge out of one single motion, Cursive’s linear movement and relations between the two instruments result in constant vertical juxtapositions that delineate harmonic progressions of each part and relationships between the parts. As in calligraphy, linear and harmonic progressions are thus simultaneous manifestations of the same onward movement of the two sets of modes on the flute and the piano in reflection of each other at the interval of a tritone. In conclusion, one may perceive in Cursive simultaneous and interpenetration manifestations of esthetics and techniques of both the East and West, contemporary and traditional, emerging out of one unified concept.
By Chou Wen-chung