First, my thoughts on the Carter:
To me, the overarching theme of this work is chaos. When listening without paying careful attention to the notes in the score the piece sounds chaotic and disorganized. It feels that each listening could provide me with a new experience based on what parts I chose to listen for, especially in the full quintet sections. Having pointed out the chaos in the listening experience, I believe that there are clear elements of organization that would be evident even on the first listening with no score. He does this by creating smaller ensembles within the quintet and having duets and trios carved out of the larger ensemble. Some of these short sections sound like miniature complete works.
On the other hand the Tymoczko left me feeling like the work had been planned out meticulously. The first thing that makes this clear is how the prepared piano sounds "marimba like"before the changes start getting removed following the first movement. There are also several elements to this piece that hint at carefully constructed minimalism. I found that this appearance of careful construction meshed well with the title of the work, which appears to be an homage to both the Goldberg Variations and Rube Goldberg Machines. The mechanical nature of the work comes not from the prepared piano, but in the way the brass is written to sound like the part of a larger machine. I found this to be in strong contrast to the way the Carter sounded.
A deeper dive into the scores revealed some interesting details in both works.
First, in the Carter from measure 30 to 38 is one of the spots I heard as absolute chaos, however this section is carefully constructed both rhythmically and melodically with hocketed lines between the entire ensemble. Another example of how Carter carefully plans out each line between instruments is in the horn and 2nd trumpet duet from mm. 70-94. In this instance, specifically mm. 70-74 he uses dashed lines to indicate how the melodic notes are shared between each part. Lastly, I was struck by mm. 371-391, where the chaos dissipates and the ensemble steps on the breaks to produce long sustained chords. Upon listening this part was quite surprising with a score in my hands, and I can imagine a listener with no score would feel even more put off.
In the Tymoczko I really enjoy the way the piano functions as the driving force behind the work. It was in the the first 12 bars of movement one before the full quintet entered that it sounded most like a marimba to me. I find this interesting because it began to set my expectations for a wind ensemble rather than quintet. In the second movement at measure 22 we finally have the opportunity to hear a single cohesive melodic line from the upper brass. Prior to that measure Tymoczko seems to play with our ears as he builds to the release of rhythmic tension that had built to that point. I found movement four to be the most harmonically interesting movement overall, this may be due to the piano being normal except for two pitches. This allows the chords of the piano to function not only as color, but as a valuable part the harmonic and melodic product. This is especially apparent when the piano becomes th featured element of the ensemble at rehearsal number 14. If this same figure had appeared in the first movement it is likely the piano would have sounded more percussive, but now we are able to hear the richness of the open piano strings.
Each work was also unique in terms of the feeling created by the language it used. The Carter seemed to dip into darker harmonic ideas overall with strong hinting at atonality. I also found that the way melodies are constructed in the Carter Quintet bring to mind ideas of serialism, I would have to do some closer reading and study to determine if serialism is actually at play in the Carter, but the divided melodies and disjunct solo passages give a strong vibe of serialism. The Carter is a tremendous work, but is a very difficult listen.
The Rube Goldberg Variations surprised me with how bright and optimistic the piece sounded overall. I already referenced the way the piano sounds like marimba or even vibraphone, but I think this plays an important role in how the harmonic language is perceived. Prepared piano could have the tendency to sound "clangy" or atonal, but the way it's used in this work it sets up the "major" open sounding optimistic feel. Overall I thought these optimistic minimalist elements made for an enjoyable listening experience.