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Nine-step scale
Pentatonic scales
Chromatic tetrachords and the eight-step scale
Georgian harmony
Hard and soft intervals and harmony
Some observations


Some observations

1. The origins of the nine step scale.

Since my early youth I had the tendency and the urge to combine major and minor chords. Only a major-minor tetra/chord gave me the sensation of finality and of stability. Then gradually I extended the 1½-tone ½-tone 1½-tone row further to reach the octave. By adding the ascending hexachord with the descending one I found the nine step scale which evidently guided me instinctively before I started to theorize it (the first appearance of the nine step scale is in the Romantic Sonatine, Op. 4, composed in 1918, while the conscious theorization of it came only in 1922 after the theorizing of hexachords that started around 1920.

2. Twelve Preludes for Cello and Piano, Op. 34 (1925-1926) are written in the complete circle of the 12 nine-step [tonalities]. I called it "Violoncelle bien tempéré" to underline the equality of flats and sharps which is characteristic of the nine step scale.

3. Quite early in my life I had the urge to use pure rhythm liberated from any pitch. The first application of it was the reduction of the principal theme (motif) to its purely rhythmic value at the end of Message, Op. 39: the pianist has to beat it on the wood of the piano. A far more elaborate application of this urge for pure rhythm is in the second movement of the First Symphony (1927) which is for percussion alone. Here the thematic material of the first movement is reduced to its purely rhythmic value.

4. The "folklore" of bird calls, of insects ("Katy did Katy didn't" etc.)-- the sounds of nature, the rhythm of the spoken word-- always had fascination for me. I started to use bird calls as musical material as early as 1924--the two themes of the last movement of my First Cello Sonata, Op. 29 (1924) are the calls of a "merle des roches" that I heard in Monte Carlo and "transposed" into the nine step scale.

The insects (fourth movement of the Duo) I heard during early autumn nights in Islip, Long Island, in the twenties.

I have used the rhythm of the spoken word on many occasions. The third movement of the Sonatina for Timpani and Piano uses the prosody of the "Pater noster" recited in Russian.

5. At the end of the twenties I embraced the so-called "Eurasian" ideology, which is based on the idea that the Russian "Empire" inherited the empire founded by the Mongols, [with the result] that Mongols became assimilated with Russians (or vice versa). The opera Hochzeit der Sobeide and the Concertino, Op. 47, [reflected] this ideology. Then, after a visit to Egypt and Palestine where I looked for the familiar Orient came the Third Piano Concerto, [along with] the Duo that I baptized as No. 1 of Cahiers Eurasiens.

6. Eurasian ideology helped me [to escape from] the technicalities of my musical thinking which [had] culminate[d] in the Quintet, Op. 44 (1927). Yet [my approach] was still quite complex [in the period when] I was looking for simplification and renewal of my technical vocabulary.

7. Such simplification and renewal came via Folklore. I felt that, what the anatomy of the human body is for a painter--folklore is for a composer. The anatomy of the human body gives the lines of "life survival." Every great painter has studied it--Michelangelo, Leonardo, Delacroix, Picasso--each one used it for his purposes (Picasso for abstract construction). [Similarly], Folklore gives us the lines of "musical survival." Operating with themes from Folklore, composers work with eternal material which they can use for any purpose.

8. My "cure" by Folklore started with the Russian Dances, Op. 50; then continued in China and Japan, where I became fascinated by the instrumental, theatrical and vocal heritage of the Orient; then returned to Georgian Folklore: as there is a saying "proletarians of the world, unite!"--I would say that the Folklore of all countries and all races has the same eternal value.

In my ballet Trepak, which I composed in 1937 on my return from China, I used musical themes from Russian Folklore that are pentatonic and treated them in a Chinese way.

9. There was a great decline in the quality of my production during the war years. To live through the occupation was not easy and I had to compose lots of trash--for dancers, for music halls, etc.-- which had to be signed [with a nom de plume] because I was Russian. This helped me survive, but little of this war production of mine survived.

10. Immediately after the end of the occupation, even before the end of the war, my fertility returned. In one single summer (1945) I composed the cantata Pan Kéou in the Chinese idiom (which was produced at the Paris Opera for the celebration of the Chinese Double X), The Twelve, and the ballet Déjeuner sur l'herbe; then during the autumn and winter--Jeu de la Nativité, Showcase, and the ballet Chota Rostaveli.

11. The great change in my life occurred in 1949 when I came to live in the USA in Chicago; especially during the time between 1950-1958 during which I did not leave the USA. Numerous commissions gave birth to orchestral compositions. I orchestrated the Second Symphony, produced the Third using some older materials, then-- Divertimento; Fourth Symphony.

12. The new musical language which I now used to express myself in larger orchestral forms synthesized all the technical devices of the past--which I outlined in [the previous pages]-- and became combined with new research in form.

13. I see the profession of composer as a mission: a mission to serve the community to which he belongs, which stimulates him, in the first place, to give back to human beings what he receives from them, shaping it in the form of a work of art. When I say "serve" I do not mean to play down; on the contrary, to serve the community by art is to guide the community, just as a priest guides his congregation.

14. A work of art (a composition) as I see it must directly project the message it contains. Only if it communicates is it worth examining later on to [determine its principles of] "order," which are the technical means that the composer has used.

15. The technical devices employed by the composer can never be a goal in themselves, but only the means to express the message.

16. Above all is the imagination. Then comes personal taste that chooses among the products of imagination and after this the technical means that put in order the things imagined.

17. There are no "neutral" technical means. Each new idea needs new means, or extension of means.

18. So it is like building a house, extending it in all directions. Never reject what one had, but always add.

19. The greater the ideas--the larger the form. A large form cannot be filled up by extension of small ideas.

20. It is the Form and not the musical language that makes a composition long living. Every musical language becomes outdated sooner or later, but the message expressed by it in adequate form survives.

21. I do not believe in the so-called music of "tomorrow." The music that fully expresses "today"--which can be identified with the aims and with the cultural state of human beings in the community to which the composer belongs--is the music that may survive, by "fixing" a "memento" of the life of humanity.

22. Music is a construction in time: so many minutes of time put in order and "fixed" by the composer.

23. The reason why people like to listen to pieces of music heard before that projected [meaning to] them is a kind of "nostalgia" for the past.

24. Music is [a] uniting [of] people; [that] is its ultimate goal: its ultimate raison d'être is to make people feel united by contributing-- [either] actively, in performing, or emotionally, in attending a performance of a work of art.

New York, January 10, 1962

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