12M-4P-15m, Counter-Linear Continua: The Descending Ascent (2001)
Howard Bashaw is a graduate of the University of British Columbia, earning his Doctor of Musical Arts in composition in 1989. Currently, her teaches composition, orchestration, and theory and analysis at the University of Alberta.
Level: High School
Howard Bashaw composed 12M-4P-15M in 2001. Its rather unusual title is an anagram for “twelve movements, four players, fifteen minutes”, succinctly describing the parameters he set for himself while composing this work. Land’s End Chamber Ensemble has recorded two of the twelve movements on this disc.
II Counter-Linear Continua: The Descending Ascent
The title of this movement is almost identical to the title of a painting by the famous German artist Max Escher. Look at the painting Ascending and Descending below, particularly the staircase. Escher’s images seek to confound the senses. He creates impossible structures through deliberate manipulation of the viewer’s perspective.
Before you listen to this piece, search for Maurits Cornelius (Max) Escher on the internet or other library resource. Next, examine the score to Bashaw’s Counterlinear Continua: The Descending Ascent.
By examining the score with your eyes, can you predict what the lines will sound like? Is the overall direction of melodic line in the piece ascending, or descending, or both? Now, listen to the work, and compare what you hear to Escher’s image. How are they similar? What traits make them sound different from one another?
Serein provides the listener with an almost complete contrast to Counterlinear Continua. Listen to this movement, and answer the following questions:
- Performers sometimes refer to melodic units in new compositions as gestures. Are the gestures in Serein fast or slow? Are they large or small?
- The title implies a idea of serenity in the music. Do you find the music serene or unsettling, or both. Do any images come to mind as you listen to the work?
- Play and sing an A concert. Sing or hum the A-concert while listening to the piece. Can you hear the constant A when you listen to the piece? Which instrument is playing this pitch?