Cadential Variations is a 17 minute collage comprised entirely of endings taken from all styles of music. From Modest Mussorgsky to Modest Mouse or from Iannis Xenakis to Xavier Cugat, these endings have come from all corners of the musical world to be re-contextualized as a part of a larger linear continuum.
The formal function of these endings is re-contextualized as they instead become a piece of a linear continuum. Consider what an ending can reveal about a musician’s relationship to death and mortality.
Some entirely subjective examples:
- In Le Sacre Du Printemps, Stravinsky tags one final stinger onto the end, as if telling death who will have the last word.
- Steve Reich’s Different Trains jolts itself into consciousness, all train engines and interlocking motion, until everything suddenly stops, leaving you mesmerized by its sudden absence.
- Post-song feedback/guitar-noodling is the rock star’s proclamation of his desire to defy death.
- The utter lack of endings in most techno music speaks volumes about the youth-obsessed mindset of rave culture, negating death by merely cross-fading to the next beat-matched record.
- The self-important high, long, ending note of a typical operatic aria elevates the singer’s final breath to a level of histrionic grandeur.
- The violent, tight, and heavy ending of a Sepultura song states that we may die, but we will do so fighting and strong to the end.
With this in mind, what could be said of a piece like Cadential Variations, which consists entirely of endings? Perhaps it might be considered morbid, dwelling obsessively on death and mortality. On the other hand, it might be uplifting; each death is not really an ending, but merely a transition to a new stage of existence.