Fiendish Quintuplet Conundrum

Hehe. That’s what my screen looks like if I accidentally select a bunch or quarter- and eighth-notes and inadvertently hit the 2 key.

Is that for reals? Or just a parody? If I were the composer, I’d be way too embarrassed to share that augenmusik with anyone.


Thanks, John. I second your analysis. On the other hand, it’s been 130 years since Tchaikovsky wrote a 5/4 movement in his 6th Symphony, so you’d think we’d have solved this issue by now.

This particular example is frustrating, because it’s truly not tricksy! If you can say, “1, 2, 3 and 4, 5,” you can play it.

Not that anyone asked, but for now I’m just gonna notate in 2/4 or 4/8 and use quintuplet brackets throughout, despite the five feel.

Again: This is my first-ever forum query, and I’m overwhelmed by the knowledge and generosity of my fellow Dorico geeks. (I’ve been on the platform for less than a year, after just one two many “Burn in hell, Avid!” episodes.) And despite this particular frustration, I’m delighted to be here.

Thanks, everyone. Sooo appreciated!

1 Like

It’s by Ferneyhough, probably the most famous (infamous?) composer in the New Complexity movement. I basically picked that sample at random, but all his music is that rhythmically complex. You can peruse his Peters stuff on Issuu.

1 Like

No way! Really, I was just about to post, “Stupid me, of course it’s a joke!” How do you play a gliss between two notes of the same pitch, like in Flute 1 after the 5/8 sign? And lotsa luck getting a flute to play ppp in that register. Silly rabbit!


They actually aren’t same pitch, if you look closely they are a quarter tone apart (little up arrow on the natural), but yeah, whatever. It’s basically unplayable exactly as notated, which is sort of the point.

1 Like

Oh — can’t see the arrow at this resolution. Okay, so lotsa luck going between the microtonal pitches without producing a gliss. And what’s with the mordent sign, minus any indication of the secondary pitch (since it can’t be deduced from a tonal context)?

1 Like

“Unplayable as written” isn’t a new concept! I ascribe to the theory that some of the incredibly difficult passages in R. Strauss’s tone poems were written to create a deliberate blurring effect, ‘cause Strauss knew the passages couldn’t be rendered exactly as written by orchestras of the era.

1 Like