»Dedicated to Harald Ossberger«

Work in progress


For piano


I Canon tribus diversis formis (1'50'')

II Canon in spiras retortus (1'05'')

III Canon duabus formis (1'14'')

IV Canon in variis figuris, formis, intervallis (1'18'')

V Canon figuris contra se moventibus (0'40'')

VI Canon perpetuus (1'55'')


The musical material comes from the musical reading of the name Harald Ossberger: H (B natural) A A D S (Eb) S (Eb) B (Bb) E G E.

I Canon tribus diversis formis (canon in three diverse implementations)

In the manner of an exposition, this first piece of the series presents different ways of working out a canon, which will in later pieces be further developed:

1.) The musical letters are initially worked out in a contrapuntal manner, being used like the original form of a row, without retrogrades or inversions. The canonic entries follow at first the seven-tone structure formed from HA(A)DS(S)BEG(E). The canon is later expanded to three voices. Rhythmically, the notes are assigned the following sixteenth note values: 4-3-3-4-3-3-4-3-4-3. The duration of four sixteenth notes is allocated to the tones HDBG, which only occur once, and the duration of three sixteenths to the repeated tones ASE.

2.) A second way of working out the canon is presented: a complex tempo relation combined with a new articulation yields rhythmic variation and also an expansion of the number of voices.

3.) In the third and final process, a bridge is built to the works of Bach. The canon is doubled, for example by doubling the DUX in parallel thirds. Through the expansion of the number of voices in parallel motion from 3 to 4, to 5, and then to 6, and through the seven-voice chord left hanging at the end an axis is set up to the form of the chorale.

II Canon in spiras retortus (canon in spirals)

The second canon, »canon in spirals«, subjects the musical letters Bb-E-G-E-(G#) to rhythmic and harmonic intensification, whereby the tempo relations provide the decisive moments. The process always begins in slow tempo and gradually accelerates, whereby the musical material is interpreted in manifold forms. Each round begins with a somewhat slower tempo than that at the end of the preceding, albeit not as slow as that at the beginning of that round that has just elapsed. This yields the impression of a spiral formation.

This is part of an attempt to overcome the essentially static form of the canon. A similar function is served by the narrowing down of motivic materials and by the switch from linear to vertical, carried through in the first canon by the conversion into chorale, and in the second through the simultaneity of different motivic tones. In the »Canon in Spiris«, which actually has only two voices, the composer also gives the parts the possibility of changing their roles, whereby Dux becomes Comes and Comes becomes Dux. The answering lines sometimes also use retrogrades of the original.

III Canon duabus formis (canon in two forms)

The title refers to the two differently formed sections of this canon. The first part includes a continuously intensifying rhythmic impulse, marked by (among other things) a shifting and tightening of the tempo. The second part designated »Double«, as in Bach’s Partitas, then reels off the tones of the rhythmically animated first part, now as a continuously racing eighth note movement.

IV Canon variis figuris, formis, intervallis (canon in variable figures, forms, and distances)

A canon of diverse figures: the rhythm of the individual figures, which are confronted with one another in staccato-secco, legato, and dotted models, is continually modified: for example, eighth note + dotted eighth + eighth becomes eighth + eighth + dotted eighth, and vice versa.

A canon of diverse forms: the figure in its original intervals and its inversion, retrograde, and retrograde inversion are in the course of the formal unfolding deliberately woven into one another.

A canon of diverse distances: meant here are not only the interval distances of the canonic entries, but also the displacements of the rhythmic distances between these entries.

Extreme contrasts of register and differentiated dynamics are also present, whereby the canon, although very strictly composed according to its own rules, has the effect not of having been worked out contrapuntally but rather of being freely composed.

When one considers all four canons one is struck by the tendency to overcome the static character of canonic form through autonomously developing pitch and rhythm models. For the composer, the transformational process character of music is more important than keeping to consistent developments. (Translation: Jorge E. López)

V Canon figuris contra se moventibus (figures in contrary motion)

From the rapid upbeat sixteenth-note motive of the four musical letters Es-B-E-G [E flat-B flat-E-G] (oSsBErGer) develops a game consisting of the retrogrades of individual intervals, which are rising upwards in the right hand and moving downwards in the left hand. Retrograde and separation processes lead to the destructuring of the motive, which is eventually broken up into single tones. This process is repeated. A coda consisting of a new, two-voice motive (which emerges from the preceding musical material) evolves into arpeggiated final chords, whose interval content is derived from the first sixteenth-note upbeat of the piece.

VI Canon perpetuus (never-ending canon)

Here, the possibilities of the canon are exhaustively explored to such an extent, that there is no real ending. The canon begins three times in this piece: the first time it disappears into nothingness (but indeed without end), the second time it appears as a lustrous sonority, while the third time it commences as a suggestion of a repeated attempt, which, however, is transformed into a blurred pedal sound and is therefore unable to lead to a new beginning. The polyphonic patterns always lead to a point from which there is no return: there are, so to speak, three »one-way tickets« of a canonic development without a possible solution. The material arises out of the motive H-D-Es-B [B-D-E flat-B flat] (HaralD oSsBerger) and its intervals and leads in its first attempt to a four-part texture, in its second attempt to a doubling of the four-part texture (through the doubling of the interval of the major second). (Translation: John Moraitis)