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SOUND

Giacinto Scelsi

IN THE RIGHT light, any composed music might for a moment look like Conceptual art—the composer’s idea, separate from each particular incarnation of it, reigns supreme in the platonic world of written scores. Italian composer Giacinto Scelsi (1905–1988) spun the thread between idea and performed music even finer, in quest of an act of creation he eventually refused to call composing at all, preferring the model of a spiritual medium, or “receiver.” Perhaps, at a certain point in his quest, that thread snapped—which would explain some of the confusions and controversies surrounding Scelsi’s work since his death. There is Scelsi’s idea. And there is Scelsi’s music. How the connection is made between the two is an enigma. Indeed, such mysteries were among the principal subjects of a preconcert conversation at Columbia University’s Italian Academy on July 21 between music critic Paul Griffiths

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