« The chords behave » Herb Levy – A Theory of Harmony.
« The river » is a story where the characters are chords (harmonic ratios). They do not have a name or a gender and the only way to evoke them is by recalling and hearing the corresponding relation between frequencies. The story is about a nightly trip on a barge along a mysterious river. The river is also the frontier between two opposite kingdoms and it’s populated by memories, fog and allegoric dreams.
The story is repeated two times, in the first iteration is a very simple enunciation of the story where chords punctuate the narration each time one of such sonorous beings is evoked. In the second iteration chords extend their duration, they are not only the characters of the story but also become the landscape, the emotional canvas and the harmonic geography where the story takes place.
« The river » It’s a study on harmony. The the protagonist is a just intoned minor seventh chord ( 1/1 3/3 7/4, seventh harmonic). Travelling with him are two weirder 13th limit triads ( 1/1 16/13 3/2 and 19/16 3/2 27/16 ) while an other mysterious character ( a just intoned major third, 1/1 5/4 3/2 -, somehow an alter ego of the protagonist ) has missed the appointment and is often thought about. The complete cast of the story includes 26 characters all belonging to different tuning systems.
The inspiration comes from the observation of allegorical universes and mnemonic architectures as described by Giordano Bruno or Giulio Camillo Delmino and its matched with the idea that purely sonorous beings – like harmonic ratios – could live a life of their own in such universes.
It’s inscribed into a larger research on what I like to call “a sentimental history of intervals” and reflects my fascination for musical harmony as a force capable of moving deep emotions. Even if chords live their life into a sonorous and mathematical world of their own they are capable of profoundly moving human emotions and behaviors even if chords and humans do not inhabit the same dimension.
The fascination for renaissance and post renaissance alchemical, combinatory and mnemonic arts comes with the frustrating sensation of them “not working anymore”. A part of that tradition slowly metamorphosed into experimental science and gave birth to modern technology. The words science and magic parted from each other and magic was somehow archived as ineffective. Still, a certain porosity between the two realms — as it is the case with the two realms evoked in « The river » — never ceased existing.
Authors: Alessandro Bosetti