There is ample repertoire that demonstrates bitonality and polytonality. Composers like Bartok used bitonality in his piano piece Mikrokosmos. Within neo-classicalism, Stravinsky used an aggressive and biting bitonality in his most famous work, The Rite of Spring.
But these techniques are not exclusive to the orchestral or chamber music idioms. Jazz bassist and composer Charles Mingus was no stranger to executing these schemes within the improvisational work Zoo-Bab-Da-Oo-Ee, a simple blues tune he wrote early in the development of his musical canon. Over the course of the piece, the harmonic tissue becomes thematic. It is common practice within this work to use extended tertian harmonies and key center movement by whole steps. Further, there are “bimodalities” demonstrated: Lydian, Phrygian, Dorian, and melodic minor. The phrasing within this section includes three voices that “breathe” together, providing contrapuntal elements that create harmonic tranquility. Tri-tonality is also used melodically.
Concertina for 12 Musicians champions several techniques and harmonic schemes: whole tone motion, bimodality, extended tertian harmonies. There are even contemporary harmonic concepts found in the work of artists like Bill Evans and Brian Wilson. The Concertinas main focus, however, is to champion the notion that creating harmony with three keys simultaneously is not only possible but palatable.
The number of instruments within the Concertina for 12 Musicians compared with standard repertoire is underutilized. This instrumentation is the perfect balance between large-scale symphonic instrumentation and chamber instrumentation. The number of strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion gives the listener a “full sound” without the same amount of personnel within the symphonic orchestra idiom. The leaner texture from this instrumentation produces a sound that is more preferable to this chamber setting. This piece is an example of 12 soloists playing a virtuosic chamber work, creating sound worlds that offer each player several moments in the spotlight during this 16-minute opus.
Dr. Lane Harder
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Boss, Michael, "Concertina for 12 Musicians" (2021). Music Theses and Dissertations. 9.