The Composer's Middle Period (2007)
Sextet of oboe, bass clarinet, trumpet in C, trombone, violin, cello. Commissioned by sfSound.
The Composer’s Middle Period is a good example of what I call artistic consumption. It is simply a chamber work that sounds cool. Part of my goal was to make a mercurial, high-energy spasm of organized sound that would (hopefully) project the vitality of the best free jazz improvisations. But much of my concern revolved around a straightforward formal scheme derived from an obsessive interest in the simple set of proportions 2:4:3:5:1. These are manifest as local and global correspondences to five material types: (1) a refrain (of expanded or compressed duration); (2) a narrative technique I call sequential metamorphosis censorship in which a material is continually modified (a la the “telephone game”—a kind of exquisite corpse transformation), however, with instances removed so as to produce both moments of logical congruence and surreal juxtapositions; (3) passages featuring glissandi; (4) a process I call augmentation-diminution canon in which materials cast in multiple voices slow down and speed up, falling behind or overtaking one another in Nancarrow-like fashion; and (5) a solo passage that focuses, counter-intuitively, on the violin instead of sharing the spotlight among the sextet.
The title is purposely sardonic. As the first work composed immediately following the news of my tenure at Stanford University, it exhibits precisely zero attributes—in aesthetic or compositional method—that should divide it historically from my prior work.
Consumption | Why Consumption?
Commissioned by sfSound for its Small Packages concert (of three-minute pieces paired with Webern’s Concerto op. 24), a recording by the ensemble appears on the accompanying CD Sock Monkey.