vulgar gorgon  for rock ensemble
for piccolo, tenor saxophone, electric guitar, electric bass guitar, keytar, vibraphone and drum-kit. Duration: 7.5 minutes
Commissioned by Clibber Jones Ensemble [US]
The instrumentalists play independently of each other. Music is cued to begin only with instruments [apart from the piccolo] starting together at the same time following a 23 second introduction and then cue from the piccolo. 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 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. The Drum-kit is the last instrument to sound and ends the piece [see instruction in section D of the drum-kit part].
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. The music itself forms dense, highly complex and constantly changing relationships that are frequently wild and sometimes beautiful.
The piece will be driven forwards [rhythmically] by the drum-kit but both electric guitars and to a lesser extent, vibraphone have propulsive rhythms too. It is important that each player keeps as strictly as possible to their own tempi, not being influenced by the dominant rhythms of the drum-kit.
The score and parts
I have not produced a score for vulgar gorgon; 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. vulgar gorgon 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’.
A word about structure and time code:
The piece begins with a short, 23 second solo introduction from the piccolo followed by a pause. Once the pause is complete the piccolo cues the ensemble to begin. From this point on all instrumental lines proceed at their own tempi.
Each instrumental line is of a slightly different length. The piccolo begins the piece and the last sounding instruments are the guitar and drum kit. All players perform their material until it is completed.
Time code has been added to each instrumental part, so as to help gauge the overall duration of each part and its sections during personal practice thereby enabling the performer to get a good ‘feel’ for the various tempi and overall duration of the material when all instruments play together without being ‘led’ or influenced by the strongest tempi producer; the drum-kit. The drum-kit has two layers of timecode to allow for the repeat of material as marked in the score. The upper most timecode represent the ‘second-time’ durations. The time code may be used as a reference point for rehearsals to begin mid-piece with 0.00 being the point where all instruments enter after the piccolo introduction.
The 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 ensemble; it is used only for the purpose stated above.
A note about the title:
The title was suggested by my friend, caroline Richards following comments I made on Facebook about the nature of the piece I was writing. This description engendered a flow of potential titles from Caroline from which ‘vulgar gorgon’ resonated well.