Perhaps there is no clearer description that better illustrates and captures the essence of the brazen call of the bell than Schiller's words that preface his Lied von der Glocke: "Vivos voco mortuos plango". I am not only drawn to the powerful symbolism behind the bell tone, an anchor of constancy and regularity amidst uncertainty and inconsistency, but also the enormous range of associative antipodes. The same bell calls the living and laments the dead, calls for solemnity and celebration, summons restraint and proclaims exuberance. We give different meanings to the same sound. As such, metaphorically, the unwavering, steadfast bell toll encompasses the swinging pendulum of experiences.
In Glocken-Spiel, for piano quartet, the concept of associative antipodes springing from the same source transfers to all significant structural levels of the composition. The violin and viola, grouped together, are critically set against and apart from the cello. This division into upper and lower strings is highlighted through registration, material, and argument. Despite their antipodal relationships, the music for the strings is set in motion from an unassuming, quasi basso ostinato motivic figure in the piano. During the work's unfolding, the more independent cello part transforms not only into the luminous overtones produced by the piano, but also, by joining the violin and viola, registrally shifts and dramatically reinterprets the basic basso ostinato motive. Thus, much like the numerous meanings, range of experiences and associations signaled by the bell toll, Glocken-Spiel changes the meaning of its fundamental material during its course. By the end, the pendulum has swung from one end to the other.
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