This is what a box of metronomes looks like.  Nicht Werfen!  (do not drop)  Poeme Symphonique - Gyorgy Ligeti.  June 1st, 2013 at the Walper Hotel.

This is what a box of metronomes looks like.  Nicht Werfen!  (do not drop)  Poeme Symphonique - Gyorgy Ligeti.  June 1st, 2013 at the Walper Hotel.

While I was an undergraduate at the University of Toronto, I used to spend hours just browsing the stacks of the music library. I'd pull interesting looking scores en masse, retire to a nearby table, and search for interesting pieces. In retrospect, this probably didn't endear me to the staff, though I suppose you could think of it as a make work project for work-study shelvers. 

One of my favourite sections was M1470, where the "open instrumentation" scores are kept. Workers' Union by Louis Andriessen and a lot of John Cage lived there. A fun discovery was Eine Brise by Mauricio Kagel, scored for 111 cyclists, which I managed to perform during a summer festival in a concert called Music for 6008 Spokes. Another score I unearthed was Gyorgy Ligeti's Poème Symphonique, for 100 metronomes. 

Tracking down 100 mechanical metronomes seemed impossible in an era of free metronome apps and cheap digital versions. I inquired with the publisher, who hire out sets specifically for the Ligeti, about a rental, but the cost, including shipping, priced out at over $3500 - a little extravagant for a 10-15 minute work.

Fast forward to 2013, after filing a few years' worth of delinquent tax returns. I received the amazing news that I had overestimated my taxes, and had a nice chunk of money coming back to me. Some people would have paid off debts or headed to Morocco or contributed to their RRSP - I immediately thought about the Ligeti and decided to blow my unexpected bonus on 100 metronomes.

Price was a barrier (it wasn't that big a refund) but I received a fortuitous introduction, through Bruce Chapman at Long and McQuade, to Adam Berlin at Counterpoint Music. Counterpoint happens to be the wholesaler for, among many other things, Wittner metronomes. Adam agreed to sell me a century of Taktell Piccolos at a very gracious price, and I'm now able to announce their upcoming debut at the Walper Hotel Microperformances on June 1st during our Between the Ears Festival. 

Some of my friends have asked me what I'm going to do with 100 metronomes, once the festival is over. I think they might end up travelling to interesting places, and living on my wall in between engagements. Also, it's an investment in my dating profile - I can't imagine anything more romantic than cooking someone dinner and then serenading them with sweet pendulum voices...


Poeme Symphonique - Gyorgy Ligeti. Between the Ears, June 1st at the Walper Hotel.

Poeme Symphonique - Gyorgy Ligeti. Between the Ears, June 1st at the Walper Hotel.

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AuthorGregory Oh