Three Variations on the Canon in D Major
by Johann Pachelbel (Brian Eno)

Program note
Arrangement for Lunapark by Anthony Fiumara and Arnold Marinissen.

The second half of the Brian Eno album Discreet Music (1975) consists of three interesting movements, titled Three Variations On The Canon In D Major By Johann Pachelbel. According to Eno’s liner notes "these take their titles from the charmingly inaccurate translation of the French cover notes for the Erato recording of the piece made by the orchestra of Jean Francois Paillard. That particular recording inspired these pieces by its unashamedly romantic rendition of a very systematic Renaissance canon.”

The three variations on Pachelbel’s famous canon were performed by The Cockpit Ensemble, conducted and co-arranged by Gavin Bryars. The members of the ensemble were each given brief excerpts from the score, along with a set of instructions. Eno again: "In this case the ‚system’ is a group of performers with a set of instructions - and the ‚input’ is the fragment of Pachebel. Each variation takes a small section of the score (two or four bars) as its starting point, and permutates the players' parts such that they overlay each other in ways not suggested by the original score. In Fullness of Wind each player's tempo is decreased, the rate of decrease governed by the pitch of his instrument (bass=slow). French Catalogues groups together sets of notes and melodies with time directions gathered from other parts of the score. In Brutal Ardour each player has a sequence of notes related to those of the other players, but the sequences are of different lengths so that the original relationships quickly break down.”

For a performance of the Three Variations On The Canon In D Major By Johann Pachelbel, Arnold Marinissen and I first tried to trace the original score – without succes. So we made our own version of the three variations. For the first two variations, we determined which fragments of the original score were used by Eno – on basis of the cd, we determined sets of rules for the performers. For the third variation, Brutal Ardour, we made a straightforward trascription. This Cage-like variation (it breaths the same atmosphere as Three Pieces for String Quartet) consists of loops of slightly different length per voice. Each voice also has its own two or three variations of the sequence.

As Brutal Ardour will sound almost exactly like the original recording (including the starting-lp-record-portamenti every now and then), the first two variations will sound different with every performance, while using the same input and rules – generic music in the true sense of the word.
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Flim (2011)
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2 Violins
+ light amplification and reverb
First performance
April 5, 2009, World Minimal Music Festival, Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ Amsterdam, by Ives Ensemble.