Paula Diehl (b. 1925) — To the Contrary (2012) for organ
All of Diehl’s music is written based on the principles of her SEPARATION compositional system. Music written using SEPARATION entirely eschews traditional melody and harmony and is based on very simple rhythmic structures. The composer describes the principles as follows: “All my music is organized and written according to the principle of gradual decrease of interlock (or overlap) of fourths. There are four such stages. The fifth stage is one of complete separation between working fourths, the sixth is one of closure on the octave. A strict foundation of bilateral symmetry is required for each composition; otherwise, a feeling that something is not right is generated. The goal of music written according to SEPARATION principles is intervallic independence.”
Paula Diehl (b. 1925) came from China to the USA as an infant with her Danish parents, and was brought up in northern New Jersey. She studied piano as a child and, after spending a number of years with her husband and three children in the Arab world, began an in-depth study of music theory and composition, first at American University, (Washington, DC), then at Temple University’s School of Music. As a result of her basic music studies, Diehl began to understand the meaning of “system” as applied to the making of music. This led to experimentation with new ones, resulting in the creation of SEPARATION, a new total composition system (1978). Diehl has been developing the system ever since and writes music exclusively according to its rules. Diehl formed SOUNDS (1982–1984), a chamber ensemble, to perform pre-structured improvisations according to the rules of SEPARATION. In 1985, Diehl entered the field of dance, writing music to represent her choreographic ideas as well as choreographing dance to represent her musical ideas. A number of Diehl’s pieces have been recorded and appear on CDs on the MMC, ERM Media, and Zimbel labels.