Rudhyar was somewhat like the poet Ezra Pound (who also wrote music), a Renaissance man -- painter, poet, author of texts on astropsychology and mystic philosophy, pianist, and composer. In the 1920s, his discords and polytonal and polyrhythmic writhing made him a young avant-gardist, and he was to be guided by metaphysical and theosophical concepts and "spontaneous exteriorizations of peak experiences" throughout his life. His composition was influenced directly by Debussy (whom he met and wrote a book about, Debussy and the Cycle of Musical Civilization), late Liszt, Scriabin, and early Stravinsky in his neo-primitive stage. His sense of large, cyclic phases of life and civilization and individuation led him to write the brilliant classic The Astrology of Personality in 1936, but his compositional style remained non-cyclic, linear, asymmetrical, and highly emotional. "Five Stanzas" is almost unremittingly tense in sweeping writing reminiscent of Carl Ruggles, but contains an otherworldly andante espressivo mid-movement. Piano works "Epic Poem" (played by Robert Black), "Syntony," "Penentagram III" (played by Michael Sellers), and "Transformation" (played brilliantly by Marcia Mikulak) alternate dissonant counterpoint melodies with massive chords (reminding one of Ives' First Sonata). The two string quartets "Advent" and "Crisis and Overcoming" move through constant statement-like passages to describe psychic processes -- in "Advent" with its movements Visitation, Tumult in the Soul, Tragic Vision, Summons and Response, and Acceptance (referring to Christ's mother Mary), and in "Crisis and Overcoming" from a troubled minor key to a calm major key "realization" at the end. A unique voice.
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