Skip to content

maps of disintegration and forgetfulness

Four works for open instrumentation ensembles (2010)

*

clinamen for four to eight players (score)

Premiere: Edges Ensemble, Phipps Hall, Huddersfield, UK, April 27, 2010

*

morass for four to ten players (score)

Premiere: Edges Ensemble, Site Gallery, Sheffield, UK,  May 15, 2010

*

simulacrum for two to five players (score)

Premiere: Matt Endahl and Colin Tucker, Canterbury House, Ann Arbor, MI, USA, September 8, 2010

*

mesh for two to four players (score)

Premiere: Matt Endahl and Colin Tucker, Canterbury House, Ann Arbor, MI, USA, September 8, 2010

*

Audio:

 

*

About the piece:

(Extended essay/program note on the piece is here)

MAPS OF DISINTEGRATION AND FORGETFULNESS is a series of four works for chamber ensembles composed in 2010. The works take the ruins of melodic lyricism as a point of departure. Fragments of melodic gestures are dilated in time, their contours flattened and liquefied. Melodic detritus unfolds polyphonically within highly constrained pitch and timbral spaces, creating thick, opaque textures where polyphonic lines dissolve into tangled sound masses, where pitch and voice-leading melt into timbre.

clinamen takes its title from Lucretius’s term for swerve and enacts a voice-leading syntax built on infinitesimally small intervals, a zero-degree of chromaticism. While in 19th century music chromatic motion signified subjective interiority, here chromatic motion involves much smaller intervals, multiplying infinitesimally different versions of the same pitch class, and in turn disorienting the very identity of pitch, a crucial precondition for normative melodic syntax. Chromatic voice-leading yields a caved-in harmony where sonic matter takes on a life of its own beyond performers’ intentions in the form of timbral, psychoacoustic, and acoustic-architectural phenomena (overtones, beating, difference tones, room tones).

In morass, music is suspended in an amorphous, viscous state. Performers play continuous sequences of glissandi while maintaining a fixed registral ordering—player A’s pitch is always above player B’s, while B’s pitch is always above C’s, and so on. The music is always in motion and yet goes nowhere. Melodic mobility is undermined by melody’s liquefaction into glissandi—movement without overall direction, punctuation, or crystallized contour—and by its inundation within a dense, undifferentiated, broadly static texture.

simulacrum is a disintegrating ascending portamento. In 19th century music the ascending portamento signified subjective yearning, but in this piece the gesture is decontextualized from the dynamics of meaning as its teeming materiality is brought to the fore. The portamento’s unison diverges into increasingly wide intervals, revealing a multifarious sonic landscape within a gesture ordinarily associated with private, individual interiority.

mesh, a sonic fabric made up of heterogeneous interwoven sustained noises, is built from the ruins of stereotypical cadential gestures, specifically gradual increases and decreases in volume. The cadence is the lynchpin of tonal harmony, where unstable dissonance “resolves” into stable consonance, where sameness annihilates difference. The present piece recontextualizes cadential gestures, embedding them in a syntax that annuls their ordinary syntactic function while activating their sonic materiality. The gestures’ slow speed, together with their placement in a broadly static large-scale architecture, drains their directional impetus. Concurrently, the lack of clear pitch further undercuts cadential functions, while sound sources’ timbral heterogeneity and functional equality cancel the stabilizing impact of individual gestures.