Liquid Music for Ensemble (2019)
Instrumentation: Clarinet in B flat, Oboe, Harp, String Quartet, Percussion (1)*
*Percussion: Deep, resonant bass drum; large, deep Tam-tam; 2 Congas low/high; 2 Bongos low/high; 5 differently pitched Temple Blocks, low to high; High-Hat; Gong; Metal Wind Chimes
Duration: circa 18-minutes
Dedicated to Gleb Kanasevich
Programme note: Like all my recent timecode-supported polytemporal compositions, liquid music for ensemble is an assemblage of materials self-borrowed and re-contextualised from extant compositions including extensive borrowing from the string quartet, observation 1 (2015), Dark Gravity (2014), On a theme of Hermes (2012) and liquid music (2017), a clarinet solo that despite the small instrumental forces, is expanded here into something of a concerto-type work. liquid music and liquid music for ensemble were written to showcase the abundant expressive and technical talents of Gleb Kanasevich, to whom the work is dedicated. The clarinet material itself is full of cross-references and further self-borrowed, self-referential content and transformations of these materials held together by a fabric of self-similar rhythmic units permeating the work as a whole. liquid music for ensemble is conceived and should be performed as a stream of consciousness; a single, uninterrupted flow of ideas constantly in a state of flux and regeneration; an entanglement of sounds, detailed, colourful, gestural and frequently explosive along with transient, self-reflective, elegiac passages, particularly toward the close of the piece.
1) This piece is unconducted.
2) There is no score. All notated material is within each performer’s part.
3) All instrumentalists play independently of each other. The composer treats each performer as a uniquely independent voice.
4) Music is cued only at the start when all stopwatches are synchronised. There are no other points of ‘fixed’ synchronisation between the instrumentalists.
5) Whilst the relationship of each instrument is somewhat 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 timecode are adhered to as accurately as possible throughout the performance.
The Score and Parts: There is no score for this piece. All musical material and instruction are fully notated within each player’s individual parts. Difficulties associated with displaying the musical material in vertical alignment as represented in real-time are considerable as each instrumental voice is delivered through independent tempi. Due to this, the detail of vertical alignments and harmonic relationships will contextually change from one rehearsal and performance to another. A vertically aligned, standard score would attempt to fix these relationships on the page in such a way as to unrealistically represent the inherent flexibility and flux of performance outcomes, rendering what is represented and fixed in the score inaccurate. The composer anticipates a range of approaches that will contribute to a somewhat flexible performance. This is desirable and anticipated. Consequently, each performance will yield somewhat different results through its interplays, gestural and harmonic contexts and outcomes. Adherence to timecode ensures that the architecture of the piece remains intact, but the on-going interpretation of tempi and timecode creates contextual changes to the alignment of musical detail between all the parts. As such, there is no definitive performance; the music has to be performed or experienced to be ‘known’.
Timecode: Timecode is not used to imply the use of any kind of click-track in performance or to be seen as a straitjacket to flexible performance within the timecode framework. However, players are required to use individual mobile phone stopwatches during the performance to help structure timings, prevent long-term tempo-drift and delivery of their material to achieve an outcome that most closely matches the composer’s structural intention. Continual reference to the timecode embedded in each part when read in reference to the stopwatch is particularly useful after longer pauses or where tempo has slipped due to playing under or over the metronome markings, enabling the performer to compensate by playing a little faster or slower to ‘catch up’ or extend or cut short pauses and rests as necessary to remain broadly on track with the timecode throughout the piece. It is important to start and also complete phrases within and as close to timecode parameters as possible. Please adjust your playing speeds continually to align with the timecode.
Players synchronise their stop-watches/timing devises at 0’0”. The 0’08” timecode represents rehearsal mark 1 in all the parts and the start of the piece. I recommend a nominated member of the ensemble ‘conducts in’ the synchronisation of stopwatches at 0.0”, enabling a synchronised stopwatch to start on beat 1 of bar 1. The more closely all stopwatches are synchronised, the more focused the musical structure and delivery of the piece will be. In effect, the 8-seconds between 0.0” and rehearsal mark 1 represents a countdown into the start of the piece at rehearsal mark 1 for all players whether playing material or silent at that time.
Note: Excluding rehearsal mark 1, rehearsal marks within individual parts do not correspond to each other in any way; they are used as a visual aid to clearly indicate tempo changes within respective parts. Collective reference points can only be found through timecode (see below).
Timecode has been added to each instrumental part for two further purposes:
1. To help gauge the overall duration of each part during personal practice thereby enabling the performer to get a good ‘feel’ for the various tempi and overall duration of the material when playing within the temporally varied ensemble texture.
2. To serve as a collective reference point in any area of the piece during rehearsals.
Mobile Phone Instructions:
• If using stopwatches or timers on mobile phones, be sure to turn off all sounds (put the phone on silent) and place the device into ‘aeroplane’ or ‘flight safe’ mode to prevent incoming calls or notifications and banners obscuring the home screen where the stopwatch will be running.
• Similarly, turn off the lock screen function to prevent the screen from shutting down after a given duration as it is essential for the stopwatch to be visible throughout the duration of the performance.
• It is also essential, if using electronic mobile devices, to ensure that the battery is appropriately charged to meet the demands of rehearsals and/or performance.
Practice regime: Personal practice is undertaken as usual. Once the player has command of the musical material, continued practice with the stopwatch and timecode will ensure familiarity playing as closely as possible to timecode in preparation for effective delivery and combination with other multi-tempi musical strata in performance.
Dynamics: All dynamics are expressed as absolute values, meaning any range between pppp and ffff is notated to represent the quietest and loudest sounds possible as produced by that particular instrument. There is no consideration for relative dynamics. The composer has balanced the absolute dynamics of the pieces being mindful of the overall balance outcome in performance.
Rehearsals: Each player is responsible for shaping their performance and being both a soloist and part of the orchestral sound-world. It is important to shape your performance by observing the full dramatic potential of the dynamics of your part and listening to what others are doing, finding the aural connections, of which there are many, and playing into these, not in a forced way, but as a mindful act of communication across the ensemble.