Hell und Dunkel
Tatar-Russian composer Sofia Gubaidulina (b. 1931) wrote Hell und Dunkel (Light and Darkness) in 1976, a year after the death of one her staunchest supporters, Dmitri Shostakovich. It proceeds without time signature or bar lines, with only a few Italian language tempo indications along the way referencing a steady pulse.
Scale flurries, trills, and other patterns written mostly in 16th notes proceed freely, with support from held tone clusters. Together, they mix abrupt dissonances and dense sonic textures to create a continuously visceral affect. The pairing of scale and cluster as two opposing musical elements also invites the listener to find an interpretation between horizontal and vertical dimensions, if not light and darkness itself.
– Gregg Wager is a composer and critic. He is author of Symbolism as a Compositional Method in the Works of Karlheinz Stockhausen. He has a PhD in musicology from the Free University Berlin and a JD from McGeorge School of Law.