Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Mixed Economy, Ensemble Klang

(from the score:) "Six individuals negotiate a mixed economy, which consists of four different ways of organizing the collective into subgroups. These four planes are intertwined, so the performers must constantly shift their relationship to one another and to the whole, and out of the four planes' motivic shreds create their song."

Mixed Economy, written in 2010, is probably the most complex score I have written. The idea was to base everything on the way the sextet can be seen as a rich multiplicity of sub-ensembles: six solos, one sextet, fifteen duos (one for each couple of instruments), two trios (the winds and the 'rhythm section', mostly playing chords, however). However, instead of presenting these formations in sequential order, they all happen at the same time. In the densest sections of the piece, everybody is constantly related to everybody else in shifting ways. This puts a lot of pressure on individual parts as well as on the sense of ensemble playing - while creating a polyphony of very high density.

The ideal of a completely saturated polyphony has been a constant in my composing, but not merely from a fascination with high information density. I'd like to create forms that do not only create complex textures, but also make their complexity somehow transparent. You can't be expected to hear and follow everything, but you should be able to zoom in and zoom out on the processes as they unfold while you listen. To achieve this type of complexity, I have ended up rather simplifying the basic motives of my melodic style, while making heavy use of canon-like relations and repetitions, but always in intricate mosaic patterns and flexible rhythmic relationships.

Within this big, messy flux, sub-ensembles organize themselves: tiny duos that should be completely together, trio or sextet entrances that are coordinated. Like so many attempts at community in a world where all stability is under constant threat of drifting apart. The soft, slow "solos" offer a form of repose.

The piece is in seven sections, each featuring different mixtures of the "planes". The fifth section is the longest, most continuous onslaught of total counterpoint.

Mixed Economy was written (with support from Fonds Podiumkunsten) in 2010 for Ensemble Klang, and premiered by them in March 2014 at De Link in Tilburg. This recording is of the first performance.

also from the score:

Mixed Economy (Worlds on Four Planes) is part of a series of works which share similar musical concerns. Other works in this series include 20 Worlds (2005) for 2 pianos and Worlds and Harmony (2006-2008) for 12 instruments, Sept Germes Cristallins (2008) for voice and three instruments, Crawling (2010) for any ensemble.

These are some of the musical assumptions that these works mostly share:

Melody is thought primarily as changing vectors of pure speed and direction that are woven together in varying patterns, rather than as rhetorical, expressive gestures;

Rhythm and meter are directly related to melodic contour;

Techniques of indeterminate coordination between parts leading to unpredictable polyrhythmical ("metametrical") structures, like moiré patterns;

Decentered formal structures based on interdependence of the performers instead of centrally organized (conducted, determinate) structures, every performer being an equally important chain link with equal responsibility and influence on the total musical form, and requiring every performer to continually play and listen to the other performers at the same time;

Dense, saturated types of counterpoint based on elaborate forms of heterophony, or variable canonic textures, organised in extensive blocks of almost static large-scale surface development, but of permanent internal variation;

An interest in diagonal listening, in which listeners are encouraged to shift their attention freely from part to part, or between individual details, contrapuntal relationships and full textures;

As in certain kinds of minimal music, repetition of motivic cells is used to facilitate textural transparency and flexibility of performer contribution, though the aural effect tends much more towards complexity and permanent change;

Mixed Economy in particular explores the possibilities of mixing multiple types of material and ever changing phrase structures within individual parts.

These technical assumptions seek, in a focused way, to bring about a ecstatic sense of multitudinous collectivies and of a multiplicity of possible points of view, a liberatory musical experience on the verge of the uncontrollable.

Other works that feature related ideas include Eindig Stuk (2004) for string quartet and electric guitar, Panoramic Variations (2004) for 6 instruments, 2 Suites (2004) for violin and piano, The Weather Riots (2002) for 2 or more high instruments, Toccata III (2001) for 2 Glockenspiels.

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