In the late 1970's I was listening to a radio interview with Steve Reich, and a remark that he made stuck in my mind. It's gist was that composers couldn't rely on traditional venues and groups for performances, and that it was up to composers to arrange performances and/or perform themselves. About that time I was practicing playing or singing with tapes that I had made of myself performing. It had started out as an exercise in intonation, and ended up with a fascination for sound phenomena: difference, combination, and interference tones, especially with like or similar instruments. With Reich's advice in mind, along with my new interest in sound phenomena, as well as my interest in exploring the timbres of instruments, I began to write for instruments that I could play myself, primarily voice and bass clarinet. I originally wrote Green Mountain Madrigal, Ariel's Song, and Bruckstück for myself to perform, using 8-track recordings, because 8-track recorders offered the most tracks readily available at that time. Once the New York Treble Singers began performing my pieces, I stayed with that format. This entire CD is made up of pieces for multiples, except for Trio for Duo, in which the voice part is written to sound like the alto flute.
Bruckstück is a piece for eight sopranos that was commissioned by the Kulturamt in Köln to coincide with the opening of an exhibition of paintings by Jack Ox that were organized using an analysis of Bruckner's Eighth Symphony. I chose a ten measure section from the "Adagio" of Bruckner's Eighth as the source material for Bruckstück. The lowest parts (relatively speaking, since all of the singers are sopranos) represent the string section, using the same basic rhythm and set up the tonality throughout the piece. The rest of the voices repesent the wind instruments. The piece is polyphonic, with a lot of closely resolving intervals, primarily major and minor seconds. Rather than writing linear melodies for one voice, I wrote melodies that are passed from voice to voice. Feu de Joie was written for bassoonist Shannon Peet and is an homage to the bassoon and its wonderful sound. I had been wanting to write for bassoon, but since my primary interest in writing is to hear what happens when notes are combined, I didn't want to write a solo piece for just one line of music, so I wrote Feu de Joie for six taped bassoons and one live bassoon (the concert format). The six taped parts are equal and dependent, while the solo part is meant to be a solo with the tape as accompaniment. This is the first piece that I wrote for multiples in which I couldn't play the instrument; it is also the first piece I wrote using my computer. This is no coincidence; I was able to write very specifically for the bassoon's sound after I did a series of studies using a programmed bassoon sound that matched the real sound very closely, so I was able to hear what was going to happen without having a performer's specific knowledge. The taped bassoons combine to create a sound that exploits the unique qualities of the bassoon, creating combination and interference tones. I started with unison pitches that created the richest sound and built the piece from there. Most of the subsequent pitches and phrases that I wrote occured naturally before I notated them later on in the piece, and these in turn created others. So, in effect, the nature of the bassoon and its natural sound determined the direction of the piece. The solo part starts off by playing dissonant tones and then picks out notes that are being heard on the tape, continuing on to play a melody that "floats" above the taped bassoons.
Green Mountain Madrigal
and Mountain Echoes are both for eight women's voices. They were inspired
by and loosely based on a madrigal by Monteverdi, Lamento d'Ariana, using
it as a source for pitch and syllables. I had always loved Monteverdi's
close harmonies, the tension in them, and I wanted to extend them. Green
Mountain Madrigal is Monteverdi with the sustaining pedal down. It is
slow-paced, with the melody passing from voice to voice, the previous
voice sustaining the "dissonant" interval, usually seconds. Mountain Echoes
uses antiphony and a wider range of dynamics than Green Mountain Madrigal.
After the initial section, in which the singers pass off the notes in
decreasing volume, moving the sound around the space, it becomes more
"singerly." The singers sing melodic phrases that are passed from singer
to singer in changing configurations. Trio for Duo is for live and taped
alto flute and voice, each part coming from four separate speakers placed
in the four corners of the hall (the ideal situation in concert). Lines
are passed from voice to voice, weaving a tapestry of matching and contrasting
timbres. The voice in this piece is sung to sound as much like an alto
flute as possible. By using glissandos, more "extra-notated" sounds were
created than appear on the page. Ariel's Song is an antiphonal piece for
eight sopranos. Unfortunately, it is impossible to duplicate the full
effect on CD. There are four upper and four lower parts. The upper parts
usually move patterns in clockwise patterns while the lower parts move
patterns in counter-clockwise patterns, and vice versa. The piece has
sections of contrasting textures.
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