Charlemagne Palestine

 Charlemagne Palestine


Chaim Moshe Tzadik Palestine goes by the stage name of Charlemagne Palestine. He is considered one of the founders of New York minimalism, but prefers that his music is known as maximalist. He also works in the visual arts. 

In this performance in Germany, he is surrounded by stuffed soft toys. This is somewhat of a signature of his, as too is the piece he is a, Concert I which also goes by the name of Strumming. The piece consists of intervals played repetitively over and over, broken into movements, key changes, and finally returning to end with the signature motif from which the piece begins. In this sense it has a neo-classical structure though I imagine Charlemagne's work would horrify many classical musicians.

The piece has an AA'BCA'' structure. It opens quite slowly before building into a somewhat frenetic 4/4 beat of sixteenth notes played with increasing volume and tension at about 120 bpm or between a Moderato and Allegro pace. There is some variation in pace especially in the B and C sections. 

In the A sections revolve around a perfect IVth relationship of the E chord's Vth and 8ve notes. There is some chromatic variance but essential the piece revolves around this interval.

In the B section there is a building of tension as the interval reduces to a repeated series of semitones ascending chromatically to climax on a tonal interval (A and B).

The C section descends to the bass register again using semitone intervals descending chromatically to D but again settling around the E note. The piece returns through a somewhat tortuous route before returning to the E chord's B and E notes. Sometimes it seems to imply an E maj. scale and at other times an E jazz melodic minor scale.

The tension of the piece exists partly as a result of the incessant repetition of notes, the building of overtones of these notes through the pounding of the keys, and the lack of tonal centre. As the work centres around the Vth and 8ve of an E chord it is underlined as either a major or minor chord as it lacks a third.

Palestine's Opus is not to everyone's liking, to be sure. He is, however, a lasting remnant of the New York Beat era having performed on the same stage as Ginsberg. I don't personally know how to take his efforts but it must be said that he is persistent in the least. His work also has an uncanny coherence which you would not really expect from such a minimalistic piece.


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