Erratum Musical (for three voices) (8:06)
In the turbulent years from 1912 to 1915, Marcel Duchamp, one of the most important artists of this century, worked with musical ideas. He composed two works of music and a conceptual piece — a note suggesting a musical happening. Of the two compositions, one is for three voices and the other combines a piece for a mechanical instrument with a description of the compositional system.
Although Marcel Duchamp’s musical oeuvre is sparse, these pieces represent a radical departure from anything done up until that time. Duchamp anticipated with his music something that then became apparent in the visual arts, especially in the Dada Movement: the arts are here for all to create, not just for skilled professionals. Duchamp’s lack of musical training could have only enhanced his exploration in compositions. His pieces are completely independent of the prevailing musical scene around 1913.
“Erratum Musical” is written for three voices, included in the Green Box, which Duchamp published in 1934. It is undated, but has always been ascribed as having been written in Rouen in 1913. It was probably written during one of Duchamp’s visits to his family, as his parents and sisters lived there. Duchamp wrote the piece for his two sisters and himself–each part is inscribed with a name: Yvonne, Magdelaine, Marcel. The three voices are written out separately, and there is no indication by the author, whether they should be performed separately or together as a trio.
In composing this piece, Duchamp the made three sets of 25 cards, one for each voice, with a single note per card. Each set of cards was mixed in a hat; he then drew out the cards from the hat one at a time and wrote down the series of notes indicated by the order in which they were drawn.