Twelve (amateur or professional) percussionists responding to individual clicktracks. Commissioned by the University of Wisconsin, River Falls 49th Commissioned Composer Project.
As its name suggests, Clicktrack is an unconducted work that employs clicktracks. The twelve ensemble players are divided into three quartets, each following a distinct clicktrack heard on headphones/earbuds connected to personal playback devices.
The clicktracks in this piece have three noteworthy qualities: (1) They are made up of recited text (as opposed to mere clicks or regular beats); (2) They are recorded, in advance, by the members of each ensemble—as opposed to being supplied by the composer—thereby affording unique, personalized qualities; and (3) They are individual to each of the three quartets; that is, each quartet hears a unique sound file that, at times, varies from those of the other quartets.
The clicktracks comprise recordings of each player reciting a poem, a sonnet by flarf poet K. Silem Mohammad. The sonnet is not heard by the audience; it is audited only by the players. It recurs eighteen times during the piece, thus fashioning eighteen continuous movements, each with a particular congregation of timbres. When various words are heard, musical articulations are executed at the corresponding moment (as suggested by the score).
K. Silem Mohammad’s “Oh, We Be Few, Oh, We Be Few,” She Huffed
Go softly to the Disneyland Hotel,
Its simulacral threshold grown sublime:
The bedrooms all emit that new car smell,
Like nothing else in bourgie Anaheim.
Where leftist brownies get our mothers high,
Humanity is poorly led, forsooth—
In Eisenhower’s shadow lies the lie;
In Soviet-run brothels lies the truth.
Henceforth let odorous intensities
Of talkativeness, torture, filth, and death
Stiffly arouse posh, gilded melodies
Beethoven might have come up with on meth.
The tawdry footsteps of a bawdy Goth
Are footsteps washed in washed-up Oshkosh broth.
Mohammad’s sonnets—which he calls sonnagrams—are anagrams of Shakespeare sonnets. In this case, the sonnagram is a rearrangement of the letters in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 3 (Look in thy glass, and tell the face thou viewest). The composer gratefully acknowledges the author’s generous permission to employ his text in this composition.
Among its charms, the score ties every musical event to the occurrence of a particular word in the sonnet—to an utterance heard privately by the players. As such, a complex, polyphonic constellation of rhythms results without the burden of meters, conventional rhythmic notations, or tempo markings. It is thus a piece that can be realized fluently by amateur or professional players alike.
Experimental | Why Experimental?
Premiered in April, 2015, Clicktrack has not yet been authoritatively recorded. Nonetheless, a good impression can be gathered by the early performance appearing on the Supplemental Portfolio CD.