Although at first glance the notation of Herbert Brun looks quite simple as compared to that employed by Rands; the harp part of Non Sequitur VI is likely the most difficult part I ever encountered. A recording of the work is included on an album entitled “Wayfaring Sounds” and was performed by:
J.C. Kilbourne-marimba I
Jeff Magby-marimba II
David Madden-percussion I
Ian Ding-percussion II
According to the program notes, the instrumental parts were generated by a “program written by the composer in SCATRE, calling on MUSICOMP, was executed by the computer IBM 7094, resulting in a printout, which was recoded into a score and parts for the musicians to read”.
After my performance, I was informed by the composer that all other harpists had refused to even attempt the project during the following 30 years.. More time has now elapsed without any new performances. The harp part to Non Sequitur was indeed a daunting proposition. The program engaged in the creation of the harp part did not include an awareness of the complexities involved in executing its results. One of the most difficult propositions was deciding how to place the hands in order to facilitate the performance of the scattered notes.
With just a preliminary glance at the first page, it becomes clear that the musical gestures are quite disjointed and rhythmically challenging particularly since they interlock with the piano and other parts. The timing has to be impeccable or else the ensemble shatters. It is not possible to execute this part without mapping out some means of handling these disconnected notes that are dispersed throughout a wide range of the harp.
The brackets in the following example indicate groups of notes that can be placed at once making the performance of the music more possible.
The precision also entails the perfect integration of the numerous pedal moves. Experience has taught me that I become more consistent in my performance if I synchronize pedal moves with rhythmic patterns of the music and if I make a change while playing the string for which the pedal is a companion. For example, if I need a B#, I make the change right at the time I play the B# rather than when I am playing some other string. Sometimes this is not possible, however. Therefore, a type of “double think” comes into play because it may be necessary to play one string while making a pedal change for another. In the case of Non Sequitur VI, it is frequently impossible to make rhythmic pedal changes and “double think” also becomes a frequent necessity.
Missing any one of the pedal markings can render some or many subsequent measures unplayable (at least not accurately playable) because once a pedal has been changed, as for example the A pedal to Ab, it is impossible to play an A natural again until the pedal is moved back into the appropriate position. If a pedal is missed, any attempt to make a correction can disrupt the practiced sequence of moves thereby creating confusion that is most assuredly going to result in subsequent other mistakes.
Into this already complicated set of performance issues is the requirement of dampening. In order to avoid undesired glissandi and other sounds that result from moving a pedal while the companion string is vibrating, it is necessary to dampen the string before or while proceeding with the change. The dampening notation is a circle with a cross inside. In measure 6, there needs to be an F natural and a dampening sign at the same time on the last note of the measure. Specifically, the previous F# in the left hand needs to be dampened especially because it is a wire string that possibly will make a very distracting percussive noise at the advent of the pedal change. In the score, the dampening sign appears on the last quarter rest where it is too late to be effective.
Even though it is less dense beginning at letter A, the second page below remains difficult. The tempo is faster and the passage continues to be rhythmically challenging. The extensive chromaticism required the insertion of many pedal matrices for rehearsal purposes. As has been said before, these devices assist in facilitating rehearsals by designating, for the harpist, the position of the pedals at various arrival points.
Also on page two, measure 17, is a clear example of “double think”. On the first beat of the measure is a high B being played while the G pedal is being moved to a sharp. Or another example is in measure 21 where the left hand is to pluck an A string with a pedal indication for F natural. In this case, I would definitely move the F pedal marking to the quarter rest on beat three of that measure.
Although the slower tempo on page 3, at measure 43, is helpful in facilitating the performance of this section, added complications appear in the form of uncommon chordal structures that occur in a “leaping around” context. These structures require atypical placing formations. Also, some of the notation cannot be executed as written, i.e., the first chord in measure 46 cannot be played by one hand by most harpists.