EMS Proceedings and Other Publications

The Unity of Opposites: Jonathan Harvey’s Advaya for cello and electronics

Cecilia Taher

Cecilia Taher, McGill University


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In his book In Quest of Spirit, Harvey describes the impact of his philosophical beliefs, in particular the Buddhist idea of the unity of opposites, on his musical thought. This paper explores links between Harvey’s philosophical ideas and his compositional techniques for combining traditional and electronic instruments in Advayafor cello and electronics. The idea of the unity of opposites is explicit in the title of the work: advayais a first-century Buddhist word that means not two. This paper examines the various musical manifestations of the idea of the unity of opposites in Advaya through the analysis of musical materials (including timbral elements, pitch-class collections, and motivic materials) and form. As a result of the nature and characteristics of the musical materials and their organization within the formal structure, the borderline between the spectral and melodic qualities of music, between its vertical and horizontal dimensions, is blurred, suggesting a musical shape that is both yet neither, simultaneously in motion and static. The idea of the unity of opposites is manifested in the very conceptual foundation of the piece: the temporal unfolding of the entire work derives from a single vertical conception, the atemporal spectrum of a single musical note.

EMS14 Proceedings