1957 – 1958




Edition Peters

Instrumentation Notes

Nine Instruments

Program Notes

“Pentathis” was completed in the spring of 1958 and received its first performance at the “Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik” in Darmstadt, Germany, in September of that year, with the “Domaine Musicale” orchestra conducted by Bruno Maderna. The work was written for the “Domaine Musicale” orchestra, at the request of Pierre Boulez, and was performed by that orchestra in Paris, under Ernest Bour, during the 1958-59 season.

“Pentathis” is neither twelve-tone nor serial in the familiar sense but is structurally evolved from the characteristics of this particular group of instruments and their possible relationships to the elements of sound. It is a principle in which the sound generates the numerical relationships rather than the reverse. This implies correctly that my ears are the first cause, from which a more or less “objective” structure is evolved. I attempt to exploit the instruments and their ability to produce various kinds of sound…from the historically “pure” sounds usually associated with these instruments to sounds usually characterized as “noise”…..and to engage as many combinatorial structures as my imagination and various compositional techniques can produce. At times I structure areas by an additive process whereby the individual instruments are the primary determinant and the end result is an accumulation of “linear” densities and configurations…(not a contrapuntal conception)  In this case there is a “random” factor employed as a compositional element and density becomes the secondary determinant. In other parts of the work there are large time areas in which the orchestra, considered as a single complex instrument, is the primary determinant and the instruments are secondary functions of the total. In this latter case I work with “acoustic” master structures, the determined elements of which are, frequencies, intensities, durations, timbral classifications, modes of attack and coefficients of density and transformation for each element. These two basically different approaches to the orchestra in the composing of the work result in at least two (and many more by interaction, modification etc.) different qualities of motion in the work. The question of motion and the factors inherent in sound relationships which create it (apart from meter and tempo…which I don’t consider inherent but merely imposed) is of much interest to me at this moment. In this work I have focused primarily on coefficients of density, the “acoustic” structures and random factors to produce whatever motion or lack of motion there is in it. I hope that the energy can be felt in the SOUND as well as in the tempo.

—Earle Brown 1958

More Information

Fl., B-cl., Tpt., Trbn., Pn., Hrp., Vln., Va., Vc.

Audio Samples


Selected Performances

October 30, 1994 • Vienna, Austria

Conductor: Friedrich Cerha

October 11, 1963 • Townhall, New York

Conductor: Arthur Weisberg

August 5, 1963 • Tanglewood, Theatre-Concert-Hall (Fromm's Fellow Concerts)

Ensemble: Boston Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Gunther Schuller
First performance in the United States

November 24, 1962 • Paris, Semaines Musicales

Ensemble: Die Reihe, Wien
Conductor: Friedrich Cerha

November 23, 1962 • Paris, Semaines Musicales

Ensemble: Die Reihe, Wien
Conductor: Friedrich Cerha

November 21, 1962 • Frankfurt/Main, Germany

Ensemble: Musica Viva HeidelbergConductor: Friedrich Cerha

October 17, 1962 • Wien

Ensemble: Die ReiheConductor: Friedrich Cerha

August 3, 1961 • Montreal

 1ere Semaine de Musique Actuelle - 1961
Ensemble International pour la Musique Actuelle
Conductor: Mauricio Kagel 

May 4, 1961 • Koeln, Germany

Ensemble: Die ReiheConductor: Kurt Schwertsik

April 29, 1961 • Tokyo

Conductor: Bruno Maderna

November 30, 1958 • Salle Gaveau, Paris

Ensemble: Chamber Orchestra Domaine Musicale ParisConductor: Ernest Bour

September 11, 1958 • Darmstadt

Conductor: Bruno Maderna

Sample Page

Pentathis sample page

Earle Brown Music Foundation