Domenico Scarlatti wrote 555 keyboard sonatas. Antisonata plays all of Scarlatti’s sonatas simultaneously, but very, very slowly; so slowly that a complete performance takes as long as it would to play them consecutively – about 18 hours. To complicate matters, the pitch range of the source material has been extended to match the range of a modern piano, and new chords have been added throughout. The placement of chords and octave transpositions were determined by chance, according to independently variable probabilities.
I don’t know why, but to me it sounds like it’s always about to break into Chopin’s A-flat Polonaise.
Why did I do this? I wanted to hear what happened when a carefully organised set of materials is meticulously re-organised according to a different, all-encompassing system. The musical relationships within each piece are now presented so infrequently and with so much interference from the other 554 pieces that they disappear. The linear distinction of one piece from the next has been collapsed into one undifferentiated simultaneity.
The title of Antisonata is not intended to present the piece as a destructive work of anti-music or anti-art. The word is used to refer to the impossibility of perceiving the music as a whole. The excessive length pushes the music beyond the listener’s ability to hear it all, and relocates the idea of hearing the entire work partially into the realm of conceptual art. The density and apparent formlessness of the music perpetually reminds the listener of what it once was, and is no longer. In short, I’m not really sure if anyone can hear anything when they listen to this piece.
The good news is that you don’t have to play the whole thing. Any excerpt down to 30 seconds (one page of the score) may be performed at a sitting. I’ve prepared a performance score of the piece, in which the pianist may take liberties as necessary, because on this scale who’s going to notice such minor deviations.
Antisonata exists as an 'infallible' version performed by a MIDI-controlled piano, and a 'fallible' version played a live musician interpreting the notation as best as possible.
A (relatively) brief excerpt of the infallible version was played as part of the the Speeding and Braking conference and exhibition at Goldsmiths College, London in May 2016. You can stream or download this 31-minute snippet here:
Recordings of the first, middle and last 18 pages each of the infallible version are available on Soundcloud. You’ll notice the piece takes a while to wind up at the start, and down again at the end. The middle section is representative of the piece as a whole.
I expect it’s a bit too long to easily fit an entire recording online, buf you have an acceptable piano soundfont or MIDI-controlled keyboard, you can try playing the complete infallible version of Antisonata at home:
Antisonata for piano (full MIDI file, 4MB). Warning: this file is big and may crash your MIDI player. Use of cheap-sounding piano samples when playing this piece may cause headaches, nausea, insanity.
If you would prefer to attempt the fallible version, the full score is available for download as a PDF. Alternatively, you may wish to print out the entire thing and wallpaper your room with it, as a bold aesthetic statement.
Antisonata for piano (full PDF score: 2056 pages, 7MB).