Carpenter et al., Downey Musical Holdings, a Real-Time Social System as of March 29 2007

For 8 performers with live computer processing.

41 minutes


Performers: Group #1: Marc Couroux (keyboard), Juliana Pivato (voice)

Group #2: Eric Chenaux, eldritch Priest (electric guitars)

Group #3: Dave Chokroun (acoustic bass), Eric KM Clark (violin), Josh Thorpe (banjo), Doug Tielli (trombone)

Recorded live at the neither/nor festival of experimental music, Toronto, March 29, 2007.

In this work, two performers receive through headphones a series of randomly-generated fragments which they then proceed to learn and string together, all the while performing a kind of flattening-out, a “spinning” of the material into a coherent harmonic/melodic construct (reflecting the “spun” testimony of the Watergate defendants). The material is passed on, as in an oral tradition to two performers seated in front of them, who attempt to learn the already-distorted materials in order to project them to a third group of four musicians, who receive the original fragmented materials through headphones and must perform a synthesis of the original, jagged-edged material with the distortions underway. What begins as a standard “teacher-disciple” relationship, quickly develops into a system of rhizomic encounters, similar to the way in which language develops in a vacuum, within a fixed frame, severed and transplanted from its native terrain, inflected with each performer’s idiosyncratic approach to listening and learning musical materials. As in Watergating, the process foregrounds the individual musician’s comfort / projection level, which is gradually reinstated as the piece progresses.

Italian composer Ferruccio Busoni’s idea that musical notation is already a transcription, a translation of the original idea, is operative here; indeed the limits of notation systems are metaphorically illustrated by the first group’s destructive operations: evidencing an inability to represent irrational fluctuations of time, the performers move towards the imposition of a unitary temporality, which unwittingly connects back to a performance tradition, where the symbols and signs of notation, though efficient in communicating basic ideas, also slough off and truncate perceptual, temporal and energic instrumental idiosyncrasies in the process. On the whole, the work metaphorically illustrates the manner in which popular culture rapidly absorbs marginal, subtle elements while deemphasizing the complexities of a given situation which cannot be reduced to a spun soundbyte.

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