Études/Duets

2012

Julius Caesar | Chicago, IL

Szu-Han Ho & Samantha Topol
sound installation
& performance : The Mirror Duet [by Szu-Han Ho]
on Sunday June 3rd, 2012 by Szu-Han Ho and Ellen McSweeney

In both music and painting, an étude is a short, preparatory work for practicing technique. In the spirit of producing a focused daily exercise, we created an étude in duet form that is influenced by the learning process of songbirds, who communicate through call and response. Songbirds, known as oscines (in Latin, 'a bird giving omens by its cry'), are capable of creating virtuosic repertoire using a combination of mimicry and improvisation. The text at the base of the sound work and printed piece was generated by sending one line of writing back and forth across time zones over the course of two months. We resisted creating any other rules, and the text progressed according to our individual associations to the √©tude, our syntactic and semantic responses to each other, and the possibilities of language in relation.

The Mirror Duet, sometimes called the Tabletop Duet, is written for two violinists who play sitting across from each other, reading the same sheet of musical notation. Part I of the duet is equivalent to Part II, read upside-down. The piece is generally attributed to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), although it is not listed in Ludwig von Köchel's catalogue of Mozart's complete works. One widely available edition derives from a single lithographic print found in Nürnberg, without a publisher's name or date, entitled Vier Scherzduette von Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart für zwei Geigen. The Allegro duet in G major performed as part of the exhibition comes from the 3rd edition of Vier Spiegelkanons, published by Möseler Verlag Wolfenbüttel in Germany in 1951.

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