At the time I accepted the challenge of performing Les Gestes, I learned that someone else had already been given credit for its premiere. I have no knowledge of subsequent performances, however, I suspect that there have not been many since 1972. Over the years, I have noticed that highly skilled musicians frequently resist venturing into this type of music with its sometimes non-explicit and unusual looking notation. “Serious” musicians are trained to fastidiously follow traditional notation for which they have developed specific learning skills. The execution of the musical ideas of Les Gestes, however, requires the invention of new techniques and an improvisational attitude, a fact that becomes clear upon examination of the notation.
In order to practice Les Gestes, it was necessary to include numerous pedal matrices. These matrices indicate the location of the seven (7) pedals at designated points thereby making it possible to practice difficult segments repeatedly without having to go back to the beginning of a section in order to trace where the pedaling process had progressed by these specific points in the music. At the top of the first sample below, there appears a pedal matrix directly in front of a lengthy complex gesture that required such repeated attention.
Thankfully, the musical notation fortunately leaves much to the imagination since many of the segments cannot be performed exactly as written. At the end of the first line of the second sample, there appears one of several extraordinarily complicated gestures found in this score. At this point, there are indications for taps on the sounding board (indicated by t’s) while continuing a sort of bisbigliando effect in both hands (suggested by the little notes). It would take 4 hands to accurately conform to this musical notation. My solution was to keep the bisbigliando motion going in at least one hand while the other tapped. Bisbigliando is a type of tremeolo. In this situation, I had to devise a new approach in order to adhere to the speed suggested by the notation. There was no time for cumbersome replacing therefore, I created rapid finger movements in the air to “pluck” the strings making absolute accuracy difficult if not impossible. In addition to this complex structure was added the moving up and down of two pedals (notated below the staff by a sort of z figure) in order to create fluctuations of the pitches and also perhaps to create percussive pedal noises to add to the texture.
Many of the symbols employed in this work came from Carlos Salzedo, a harpist known for his innovations. Like Salzedo, Rands uses a half moon to indicate playing with fingernails, a T for tapping on the sounding board, PT for playing near the sounding board producing a guitar like effect, dampening signs, a circle with a little line at the bottom for playing a string near the sounding board and then making a percussive sound by sliding the finger to the body of the instrument. Below is a more complete listing. Carlos Salzedo had previously designed all or most of these symbols. His designations are written in next to those of Bernard Rands.