an uncomfortable condition (2016)
For Flute, 2 violins, viola, violoncello and double bass | duration 12 minutes | dedicated to Grainne Mulvey
an uncomfortable condition is commissioned by La Côte Flûte Festival 2016. It received its first performance with ‘zero theorem’: Carla Rees [flute] Minsi Yang Johnson & Nuno Carapina, violins, Stephen Upshaw, viola, Patrick Tapio Johnson, cello and Siret Lust, double bass will give the premiere on the opening night of the festival. at Théåtre de Grand-Champ, Gland, Switzerland on the 6th October 2016. More information here.
an uncomfortable condition is an asynchronous piece of ensemble music that navigates the changing relationship between Frederick II and Voltaire using the development of their lifetime correspondence as the basis for three connected phases of music that explore aspects of love, disagreement and confrontation and eventual resolution and insight.
The composed music is an abstract response to the elemental state of these conditions as well as the fluid nature of transition between them. The music has no programmatic intentions beyond articulating something of the nature of these ‘correspondence inspired’ contrasting phases.
“Doubt is an uncomfortable condition, but certainty is a ridiculous one.” Voltaire
Asynchronous composition – notes: The instrumentalists play independently of each other. Music is cued to begin only with instruments starting at the same time. There is no ‘fixed’ synchronisation between the instrumentalists. Whilst the relationship of each instrument is flexibly placed against its neighbour, care has been taken to calculate potential outcomes of coincidence and variability. To this end it is vital that metronome markings and time code are adhered to as accurately as possible although the composer appreciates that it is the various interpretations and practicalities inherent in the realisation of tempi that contribute to the richly unique nature and interplay of each performance.
Compositional material is derived from a series of distant variations that unify all sections with thematic landmarks. Thematic material is audible throughout the piece, bringing cohesion and structure to the work. All the instrumental roles are written to a high degree of virtuosity and most contain extended techniques and quarter-tones. The music itself forms dense, highly complex and constantly changing relationships that are frequently wild and sometimes beautiful.
The score and parts: I have not produced a score for an uncomfortable condition; difficulties and variables associated with displaying the musical material in vertical alignment as represented in real time are considerable. Each performance will yield somewhat different results, interplays, gestural and harmonic references and outcomes. As a result, the material contained within the piece can only be read via the instrumental parts. Consequently there is no definitive performance of the piece. an uncomfortable condition can can only be realised through performance [as opposed to comprehended by reading through a score]; this is the nature of the music – it has to be experienced to be ‘known’.