Wednesday, April 3, 2019

More on the pieces for ELISION's workshop

In our previous post we presented the work of ELISION ensemble in the context of their visit to the University at Buffalo. We wanted to know more about the second event of their residency, so we asked the four students who composed pieces for them to write short texts about their works.

John Aulich’s work is titled The angles which wound me, and it is written for Uillean pipes, lap steel guitar and contrabass.
“I began preparations for this piece in the middle of last semester with my head full of detritus relating to ritual, futility, pointlessness and transcendence, so in a very broad way that’s what the piece is ‘about.’ The normal meaning of the word ritual needs no further elaboration, but I would also hazard invoking it in a more ostensibly banal sense. That is, in terms of those things we do with as much regularity as is necessary to draw boundaries; to keep ourselves from spilling over and to define ourselves against everything else.
So, there are definitely embedded in the piece - hopefully in more than one way - notions of drawing, navigating and perhaps transgressing or transcending boundaries through ritual acts.  On the other hand, significant aspects of the piece were in large part inspired by an advert for a children’s toy called Transformers, which I’m led to believe is a franchise in itself with movies and everything. In entirely unrelated news, a large number of scientists are currently searching for new means to quantify ‘mouthfeel’ (supposedly) in the service of the food-industrial complex; sensation comes before sermon, so I’ll leave it you to imagine what other complexes we might soon be forced to contend with.
I would like to thank members of Elision for their time and work so far in helping me put this piece together. Their advice and encouragement has been invaluable to the compositional process, and I very much look forward to working with them when they arrive here.”

Roberto Azaretto:
Registral extremes are the areas of pitch space where the material nature of sound, the fact that we are dealing with vibration, with molecules moving in space, bodies affecting bodies, becomes most clear. Sound is a haptic phenomenon: we sense low register sounds as much in our stomachs as in our ears. The vocabulary we use to describe pitch space manifests this to a different degree depending on the language we speak. Whereas in English, sounds are placed in a vertical line, a continuum between low and high, in Spanish, my native tongue, sounds themselves are conceived as bodies: high sounds are agudos (which means sharp or piercing) and low sounds are graves (heavy, big).
Historically, most music has taken place in the central region of this space, probably because this is the optimal area for the identification of pitch patterns, but there is also a growing body of works where the primary concern is the investigation of registral extremes. I have been interested in exploring the structuring capabilities of register for several years, so when I learned that ELISION was coming to UB I decided to take the opportunity to concentrate on dense sonorities in the lowest part of the register, writing for a quartet of contrabass clarinet, baritone saxophone, trombone and double bass. The result was a piece where the highest notated pitch after transposition is a major third below middle c.
The title of the piece, eigengrau, alludes to another semantic field common in discussions of sound: that of color. The term means "intrinsic grey" in German, and denotes the uniform dark background that many people report seeing in the absence of light.

Igor Coelho A.S Marques:
Noturno is a sort of autobiographical piece for actor/poetry reciter, an 8-piece mixed chamber ensemble, and a stereo fixed media track, in which I deal with some of my nightly anxieties via three poems by Brazilian poet Ferreira Gullar. The first, Teu corpo, explores the inconsistency in seeking to define one's identity in the notion of an unfathomable soul, rather than in the concrete realities of their body. Then, ExercĂ­cio de Relax emulates an insomniac's self-soothing bedtime routine, and Dentro sem fora closes with some paradoxical ontological aphorisms.
While the focus, sonically and theatrically, remains on the actor reciting the poems, the instrumental ensemble and the electronics play a crucial role in inflecting the text and spinning a narrative from the juxtaposition of these three different poems. A counterpoint of breathy and airy noises with metallic and distorted ones populates the first third of Noturno, while the drummer's gestures rise in entropy, painting a picture of increasing tension that counterposes the relaxing affirmations of ExercĂ­cio de Relax. Relaxation eventually comes in the form of tonal and metrical stability, but this stability--or the illusion thereof--is short-lived, and quickly erodes away as the actor closes the work by reciting Dentro sem fora three times, each more disconsolate than the previous.

Alex Huddleston:
"My piece is titled Books II III VI VII XI XVII XXIV XXIX XLI. I would like to tell you some details of its construction. It is scored for Tenor Trombone, Bass, Soprano and Tenor Saxophone, Contrabass and Soprano Clarinet, seven guitar Pedals and Amplifier, fixed electronics, with limited amplification. Of the five musicians, all excepting the guitar pedals will be arrayed in a partial arc on the stage. The Clarinetist will sit closest to the audience on the right-most end of the arc, facing to the left; beside him will be the bass, beside her will be the Trombone, beside him will be the Saxophone. The manipulator of the pedals is seated behind them. The two speakers, stereo, will be rotated from their traditional position at the far left and right of the stage, such that the L channel will sound in the rear left corner, while the R channel will sound in the front left corner.
Both the trombone and the guitar pedals will have their sounds taken into a microphone, and displaced to the rear left corner. The piece is 25 minutes long. There are 6 autonomous musical strands occurring simultaneously - Each of which is an exploration of continuity as foundation - none of which are coordinated in any musical, or technical way. Each autonomous musical strand equally divides the total duration into some number of equal segments - the electronics are in 7 parts, the guitar pedals in 11, the Trombone in 17, the Bass in 24, the Saxophone in 29, and the Clarinet in 41. When conveyed through notation, each segment is indexed to the page - thus every page within a single stream is exactly the same length of time. Rhythms, Meters, & Tempi are not employed for the structure of time. A page may contain more or less material, having a clear sonic impact - more material within the same page = less time = faster. less material = more time = slower. In this way, the material of the music is imbricated in a notational network of nested imprecisions, ambiguities, aleatorea.
I have focused my descriptions to the structural elements of this work, rather than those of emotion or phenomenon. They have been written into the music, and cannot be rewritten in prose here. Therefore I invite you to hear the work for yourself with or without the information above in mind as you listen."

Alex also wrote a blog post about this text, and more generally about the possibilities and problems of connecting verbal language with music.

We look forward to listening to these works during ELISION's workshop, which will take place on April 24th at 2 PM in Lippes Concert Hall at Slee Hall. 

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