the appointment of life (2015)
the appointment of life trio [duo] for extended male voice [viola] and percussion * *percussion set 1: Deep, resonant bass drum; Large, deep Tam-tam; 2 Congas low / high [or similar drums pitched lower than the Bongos]; 2 Bongos low / high [or similar drums pitched higher than the Congas]; 5 differently pitched Temple Blocks [or a collection of differently pitched wooden objects]; High-Hat; Gong; Metal Wind Chimes. percussion set 2: 2 differently pitched cow bells low / high [or agogo bells]; Metal wind chimes, as high-pitched and resonant as possible; 3 low sounding gongs – no specific pitch required – organised low to high; crotales – upper octave; vibraphone.
the appointment of life is two asynchronous works in one; the main trio iteration for voice, viola and percussion, and, omitting the viola part, a duo for voice and percussion only. The parts for the voice and percussion are the same in either iteration.
Text and vocal writing:
The text is originated from prose written by me some years ago. Being a little too obvious for the compositional treatment that was to come, the expressive content [words] were subjected to various processes or ‘erosion and disfigurement’ as I passed them back and forth through an on-line universal translator until I had reached a point sufficiently removed from the original to enable me to work with the text.
A resonance of the original prose and a degree of its structure remained and have led to a somewhat obscure, non-narrative text that is [intentionally] open to multiple interpretations. Further to this, the setting of the words does not generally encourage clarity and diction in delivery. There is much melismatic writing and the words are used more for their inherent sound properties than literal meaning and context. Of course, at times there is a collision between word setting and context that amplifies meaning in the conventional sense.
As the voice, viola and percussion deliver their individual lines, words and phrases, musical gestures and individual vocal characters will intertwine, compete, challenge, unify, collide, obscure and generally create a complexity of sound that will become an aural representation of the non-narrative resonant text presented here.
To create this level of musical activity all parts are very mobile and highly virtuosic, exploring the full range and dramatic presentation of the voice, vila and percussion. The music employs quartertones and extended techniques as well as dramatic, gestural writing. As mentioned, much of the clarity of word production will be intentionally obscured by these techniques.
This iteration of the appointment of life is created around the extended male voice – in particular the specific range of Carl Thiemt which encompasses baritone and countertenor voices with overtone and undertone extension to this range.
The piece should be performed as a dramatic scene. All performers are at liberty to wear costume or masks as they see fit. Minimal staging / lighting is encouraged, again as the performers see fit.
My vision with intricate line
I remember passion sculptures in bright blue
Capturing reflections, simply dust in space.
I remember thunderous heavy dense with depth.
Suspended animation in hot air.
Anchored in you
Absorb the amount,
I remember swaying left, right or light-fresh in the morning.
I remember on my back firmly against your world,
This pain is near.
Fixed in the middle it is absorbed by the conflict.
It is located in a long time low.
Husband and his messenger,
Mother and protection.
Pain is approaching.
I’m afraid, you, my mirror.
Strong in the middle it is absorbed by the conflict.
Shake the future or understand the right, the new.
I was afraid.
After carving blue to block the appointment of life,
Light, dust, space.
I remember a heavy storm.
The depth of the thick,
You get absorbed by the fray.
I remember lying low,
long or high.
Swaying left, right or tomorrow in a new light.
Harbinger and husband,
Protector and friend.
I remember on my back,
Hard against the earth,
The pain was close to.
Faster and fear again.
Remember the weather.
And I was embarrassed when I saw.
I remember the passion of bright blue images captures the idea.
This cosmic dust and remember the depth,
Suspended animation in warm weather.
At the door,
I remember low and high.
He left, right or at the beginning of a bright and cool,
Do not hesitate.
Do not forget,
A harbinger and mother,
I remember his back firmly on the world
Belongs to those who
Back, I remember the reflections capture light, dust, space.
I remember in the black,
Hard to, overcoming his crown.
Passion sculptures in bright blue.
Strong in the middle it is absorbed by the conflict.
Shake the future
Or understand the right,
You get absorbed by the fray.
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 the appointment of life; 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. the appointment of life 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’.
Time code is not used to imply the use of any kind of click-track in performance or as a straightjacket to flexible performance within the trio / duo. However, players are required to use a stopwatch individually 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. This is particularly useful after longer pauses or where tempo has slipped due to playing under or over the metronome markings and enables the performer to compensate by playing a little faster or slower to ‘catch up’ or extend / cut short pauses and rests as necessary to remain broadly on track with the time code. It is important to start and also complete phrases within and as close to time code parameters as possible. The time code may be viewed as ‘the invisible conductor’; please adjust your playing speeds continually to align with it as much as possible.
Passages of frenetic playing are required at times. Here, the intention and activity of the material is more imporant that pitch accuracy. Once again, the time code should be adhered to as closely as is practical to create the desired effect. As an alternative to personal stopwatch devises on mobile phones, a large, quiet, clearly visible digital stopclock showing seconds, minutes and hours may also be conveniently placed for the trio / duo to refer to for timecode.
0.5″ time code corresponds to rehearsal mark 1 in all the parts. This allows all players to synchronise their stop-watches/timing devises at 0.0″ together before playing commences. In effect, the 5 seconds ‘synchronise watches’ before rehearsal mark 1 represents a countdown into rehearsal mark 1 and the start of the piece.
Excluding rehearsal mark 1, rehearsal marks within individual parts do not correspond to rehearsal marks in other parts in any way; they are used to clearly indicate tempo changes within each part. Collective reference points can only be found through the time code [see below]. Time code 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.
2] To serve as a collective reference point in any area of the piece during rehearsals where the ensemble can start rehearsing by each player locating the nearest time code point to the agreed starting point and beginning from there. This is in lieu of rehearsal marks being used for vertical reference and rehearsal purposes in the usual way.
Marc Yeats – September 2015