ricercare [ˌriːtʃəˈkɑːreɪ], ricercar [ˈriːtʃəˌkɑː]
n pl -cari [-ˈkɑːriː], -cars (in music of the 16th and 17th centuries)
1. (Music / Classical Music) an elaborate polyphonic composition making extensive use of contrapuntal imitation and usually very slow in tempo
2. (Music / Classical Music) an instructive composition to illustrate instrumental technique; étude.
[Italian, literally: to seek again]
ricerca pl. -che /riˈtʃerka, ke/
(studio) research (su into, on);
(risultato dello studio) study, survey, piece of research;
~ sul campo field study, fieldwork;
This post features 2 synchronised recordings made by Felicity Ford and Valeria Merlini during Audiograft 2012.
The idea behind these 2 synchronised recordings was to try and capture the specific qualities of the performance of Paul Whitty’s Ricercare at Modern Art Oxford. This version of the piece involved 3 performers, who would each take a score and a corresponding recording of that score. Picking a moment from each page of their chosen work, performers would then search through their recording in order to hear that moment. Once the phrase, chord, note etc. was played out loud and clearly heard, the performer would pick another moment from the next page in the score, and then search for that in the recording. After methodically going through one score and recording in this way, performers picked up another score and record from the pile in order to continue this process.
The performance lasted for 6 hours.
Performing in Ricercare involved intense listening – especially as the noise from the other performers searching on their recordings often interfered with one’s own listening process. The sounds resulting from this listening process were a discontinuous medley, featuring snippets of classical music, mixed with moments of beautiful quietness as notes were sought, scores consulted, or records replaced in their stacks around the table. The sounds of the records themselves and the technology used to play them were also a prominent feature of this performance.
To try and demonstrate the active listening involved in performing the piece, Ford wore headworn binaural microphones as she leant over her record player and craned her neck towards her speaker, trying and determine where she was in the work. At the same time, Merlini attached a contact microphone to the arm of the record-player, to pick up some of the materiality and surface noise of the recordings themselves, which added a patina of dust and time to this methodical, research-based creation of complex, polyphonic music.
Here is the score for the piece;
ricercare or where the f*** are we?
Sept 2008 rev. Sep 2011
for tim parkinson & james saunders
to be played by any number of performers with found scores; recordings; turntables; cassette players; CD players; and any other appropriate sound reproduction devices.
1. select a pre-existing score or scores – they can be of the same work in which case each performer should select a different edition – or of different pieces.
2. search out as many alternative recorded interpretations of the work or works as possible on a diverse range of formats.
3. procure the means to play the recordings.
1. select a single event from each page of your score – use a systematic method of your own choice. in this context an event is considered to be a single action – it could be a chord or a single note – the event or action ends when the next event or action is performed.
2. search out the chosen events on the recordings of the work – in performance you should be seeking out the events for the first time. searches should not be pre-prepared
3. do not seek to minimise the sounds resulting from your search – for example do not use headphones or turn the volume down to a level lower than the level at which you will finally play the selected event.
4. when the event has been found – play it once. as far as possible seek to isolate the event from the other events surrounding it.
5. once the event has been played begin to search for the next event on the same or an alternative recording and format.
Where possible use internal amplification – where external amplification is required the volume should be at a domestic level.
The performance ends once each performer has found an event from each page of their score or when a pre-determined number of events or a pre-determined duration has elapsed.