for youth ensemble and electronics

dur. ca. 10'

Commissioned by Arte no Tempo for the project Nova Música para Novos Músicos

Premiered May 21, 2023

Reencontros de Música Contemporânea 2023, Teatro Aveirense

dir. Rita Castro Blanco

Gehry: So they would constantly be in tension, or whatever, with each other. (…)

Diamonstein: So, the old house was the core, and the new house is the wrapper.

— Barbara Diamonstein, American Architecture Now

This piece grav­i­tates around the essay that would become the fourth chap­ter in Fred­er­ic Jameson’s sem­i­nal Post­mod­ernism, Or, the Cul­tur­al Log­ic of Late Cap­i­tal­ism: Spa­tial Equiv­a­lents in the World Sys­tem”. Pon­der­ing on the orga­ni­za­tion of space, Jame­son push­es the read­er towards wider rang­ing reflec­tions on syn­tax. What belongs togeth­er? How do we com­bine our expe­ri­ences — per­son­al or col­lec­tive — in mean­ing­ful ways? The author reads through works of con­tem­po­rary archi­tec­ture to show how they illu­mi­nate and exem­pli­fy the cul­tur­al dom­i­nant” that is post-mod­ernism. Chiefly among them, the Gehry Res­i­dence: archi­tect Frank Gehry’s own house. Orig­i­nal­ly a con­ven­tion­al Dutch colo­nial style dwelling, it was then expand­ed by envelop­ing — wrap­ping — the old house with seem­ing­ly ad hoc struc­tures of met­al and glass. The final impres­sion is, accord­ing to archi­tect Paul Hey­er, one of a col­li­sion of parts, built to stay but with a delib­er­ate­ly unfin­ished, ordi­nary builder­like sen­si­bil­i­ty”; of an artis­ti­cal­ly intu­itive”, clut­tered expres­sion­is­tic” acci­dent not resolved”. With the orig­i­nal house almost intact, these new forms lift back the skin to reveal the build­ing as lay­ers”, with new forms break­ing out and tilt­ing away from the original”.

wrap­ping pro­pos­es a sim­i­lar exer­cise. From an unchang­ing core, I build out a cha­conne. This under­ly­ing struc­ture is con­struct­ed (if you’ll allow two archi­tec­ture puns in quick sequence) out of sev­er­al strands of appro­pri­at­ed mate­r­i­al (which I’ll abstain from nam­ing): mate­r­i­al from com­posers of dif­fer­ing rela­tion­ships with their past or present, and pre­sent­ed worked over, can­celed, sur­charged, volatilized, sub­li­mat­ed, or trans­formed” (to bor­row some bril­liant prose from Jame­son) to dif­fer­ent degrees — includ­ing as a direct quo­ta­tion, which I am sel­dom (if ever) inter­est­ed in. These are not sol­id foun­da­tions (sor­ry): any dis­cernible force that might be orga­niz­ing these ele­ments — their mate­r­i­al sim­i­lar­i­ties in tim­bre, spec­tral con­tent or behav­ior in time — can be quick­ly dis­in­te­grat­ed or reversed. Their awk­ward coex­is­tence is less resolved and rather more got­ten used to through its rep­e­ti­tion; impo­si­tion giv­ing way to adaptation.

This space, engen­dered by the elec­tron­ics, is inhab­it­ed by the instru­ments. I use this verb with license, but also with some pro­pri­ety: if the unchang­ing struc­ture of the cha­conne sug­gests a cer­tain sculp­tur­al qual­i­ty, the sub­ject-posi­tions engen­dered by the instru­ments pro­pose dif­fer­ent points of view of the same space: from here, a wood­en beam (let’s say) might be seen through a pane of glass; from there, a met­al struc­ture inter­sects an old­er wall, giv­ing rise to new assem­blages. Fun­da­men­tal­ly, it is not the sim­ple jux­ta­po­si­tion of dis­tinct spaces (musi­cal mate­ri­als, in our case) that pro­duces new forms, but their dialec­ti­cal work­ing-through, ani­mat­ed by the ensemble.

Last­ly, this log­ic is present in the way of orga­niz­ing the instru­ments them­selves — or, to be more exact, in the ways the instru­ments orga­nize them­selves. With­in the stric­tures of the cha­conne, the work is, in fact, rather open. On one lev­el, the play­ers are faced not with one line, but with mul­ti­ple: much like the Gehry Res­i­dence lift­ed back the skin to reveal the build­ing as lay­ers”, so are the play­ers faced with con­cur­rent, syn­chro­nous staves, each with the same mate­r­i­al in dif­fer­ent stages of devel­op­ment, com­plex­i­ty or indi­vid­u­a­tion. It is up to them — through their indi­vid­ual pro­fi­cien­cies and through an essen­tial skill to be devel­oped in ensem­ble play­ing, name­ly active lis­ten­ing — to nav­i­gate this tan­gle of lay­ers through choice; through their own itin­er­ary through the space, if you will. The sub­se­quent lack of sta­bil­i­ty in the musi­cal text is bound to be rich in accident[s] not resolved”, as the delib­er­ate­ly unfin­ished” musi­cal tex­ture (per)mutates — fur­ther evinc­ing its con­sti­tu­tive lay­ers, now at the lev­el of instru­men­ta­tion. On a for­mal lev­el, each rep­e­ti­tion” of the cha­conne high­lights a par­tic­u­lar instru­ment, and along with it its respec­tive char­ac­ter­is­tic musi­cal mate­r­i­al; echoes of this mate­r­i­al, how­ev­er, escape this for­mal delim­i­ta­tion, and over­flow into the fol­low­ing rep­e­ti­tion. Cou­pled with the fact that the order of these rep­e­ti­tions is not fixed, this assures a dynam­ic and unpre­dictable (and per­haps too lit­er­al) col­li­sion of parts”.

This piece is ded­i­cat­ed to Diana, in admi­ra­tion of her strength, kind­ness and patience.

wrapping rehearsal