I read in Gabriel Josipovici's wonderful novel "Infinity The Story of a Moment" about a piece composed by the fictional hero of the book Tancredo Pavone called Six Sixty-Six. I had to play it when I read about it. All I had to go on is the description in the book.
Here is what Josipovici wrote:
"When I came back from Nepal, he said, I sat down at the piano in my house and I played the same note over and over again, hour after hour,and day after day, just as I had done in Switzerland, But the difference was this, Massimo, he said to me. I no longer felt this to be an admission of defeat. On the contrary, he said, I understood it was a sign of triumph, I played that one note and as I played I listened. I listened and I understood. At that moment a new kind of music was born. The first piece I called Six Sixty-Six. Six Sixty-Six. The same note struck in the same way on the piano six hundred and sixty-six times. It was beautiful, Massimo, he said. Its beauty was an otherworldly beauty. It would either drive you mad or draw you into another dimension. When it was performed later, by Pollini at Dartington, and then at Bergenz, the audience rioted, and walked out. Cage said to me: This is a piece I would like to have written if only I had thought of it. But he was wrong. He could never have written it. I was fond of Cage, he said, he had in inkling of the way of the Buddha, but fatally contaminated by American New Ageism. He never understood my music. If he had written Six Sixty-Six he would have been content with the idea, he would have been indifferent to the sound. Whereas I was not interested in the idea, he said, I was interested in the sound"
There was no information about the pitch of the single note, how fast to repeat it, and with what volume and touch. I chose C because the composer Giacinto Scelsi (which Josipovici mentions on the final page of the book, is the real life model for Pavone ) in his own writings mentions a time at a Swiss clinic when he played repeated notes on the pianos there, and in describing that incident he wrote
C....C....D....D....Here is a video with Scelsi's music and quotes from him.
Scelsi published some music under the title Quattro Pezzi su una nota sola ["Four Pieces on a single note"] in 1959, there are 4 movements and each uses a different note as the base line, F, B, A flat and A.
I counted from 1 to 666 as I played, which I found fully occupied that everyday part of the mind where the inner voice usually witters on.
The tempo slows as the piece proceeds, which was not intentional, I wasn't using any particular method to check how fast I was playing, and it simply drifted. I think the slower pace near the end suits the piece better, and if I do a second performance I would start slower.
- extreme minimalist piano