neither super-idealized guidance nor caprice (2005)

This is an semi-improvised piece for piano, guitar, accordion, violin, cello and live electronics, conducted by stopwatch. The players follow a score which determines playing technique, general duration, and manner of entering/exiting. The electronics are mixed live, and were programmed in Max/MSP.

Two versions of this piece are available (and quite dramatically different):

1) The Berkeley Contemporary Chamber Players
Jason Levis, piano
Marie Abe, accordion
Brian Kane, guitar
Leighton Fong, cello
Graeme Jennings, violin
John MacCallum, live electronics

Recorded live at Hertz Hall, UC Berkeley, April 3, 2006.

2) Wet Ink
Eric Wubbels, accordion
Kate Soper, piano
Matthew Hough, guitar
Olivia De Prato, cello
Jane O’Hara, violin,
Jeff Snyder, electronics

Recorded live at Symphony Space, New York City, December 1, 2007.

Program Note: This is a semi-improvised work for small ensemble and live electronics, conducted by stopwatch. Each instrumentalist in the ensemble is given an ever-shrinking set of sounds, and must follow very specific instructions about co-ordination with the other members of the ensemble. Creating a complicated network of embedded relations, every sound made by an instrumentalist has the potential to be interpreted as a cue for one of the other players in the ensemble without the instrumentalist knowing what kind of cue he or she may be giving. The goal is twofold: to force the players (and the audience) to pay attention to the beginnings and endings of sounds – aspects which are not often the most perspicuous – bringing them into audibility, and thus critiquing our habitual modes of listening. To complicate matters, a blanket of electronically processed sounds is overlaid on the ensemble, providing resistance and forcing the process of listening into a tenuous state of double attentiveness. The relation between the electronics and the ensemble is ripe for an allegorical interpretation.

A note on the title: In the context of David Pears’ book The False Prison the phrase “either super-idealized guidance or caprice” refers to Wittgenstein’s rule-following paradox. I leave it to the listener to glean what it means in this context.

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