Hauke Harder: Pure Presence (1995), a program note


Like all of Hauke Harder's chamber music, Pure Presence involves a small number of fixed pitches that are projected in simple patterns onto a steady pulse or metrical field. Harder notates superficially simple figures that bring out an acoustical illusion space through interference and combination tones and other acoustical phenomena. The narrow gamut of pitches and the repeated rhythms are points of reference from which the listener can orient her attentions. The rhythmic patterns are not developed, but rather begin and end abruptly without logical or rhetorical motivation. Likewise, Hauke chooses his pitches on the basis of their transparence -- and their potential disappearance into the overall gestalt. In his most recent compositions, this transparence is created by taking pitches which relate to one another as do the partial tones in a harmonic series.

In the case of Pure Presence, the gamut of tones corresponds to selected overtones (between the 11th and 144th) of an unplayed and -- as pitch -- inaudible fundamental A of 6.875 Hz. Although the complete collection of tones is static, without tonal funtions, there is a dominant-tonic color to the pendulum motion between the dyad pairs 11:32 (the ca. 50-cent flattened D of the cello and the viola's a) and 24:42 (the clarinet's e and the horn's ca. 30-cent lowered d'); in addition, a cluster of semitones in closer and wider spacings with an added dominant tone is directly reminiscent of La Monte Young's dream chord -- albeit without Young's strict voice leading rules.

For the first time, Harder does not indicate a fixed tempo in "BPM" (beats-per-minute, la techno) as part of the work's title. Also for the first time, the composer uses tempo changes, including a sudden cut into double time. And yet, the fundamental pulse remains slow enough that multiple subdivisions arise within the prevailing metric environment. In terms of instrumentation (clarinet, horn, string trio and piano), this piece is a kind of Waldmusik, but one in which the question of perspective is never resolved decisively in favor of either the forest or the trees.

Daniel Wolf, 1996.