This is an excerpt from my recent narrative environment score, she/storm. Narrative environment scores represent a new aspect of my creative research, but one with which I’m quickly falling in love. I wanted to work through a few of these ideas here, fix them (rather informally) and mark this moment in exploration, especially as I finish this piece for The Nodes Project and begin working on earnest on another work in the series for the fiercely talented Shanna Pranaitis.
This new direction of inquiry is born of several desires: first, to situate the performing body of the musician and the effort of making sound. Second, to establish a shared aural-visual world for listener and performer that evolves temporally. Third, as a more explicit means of engaging with concepts of narrative theory, a primary organizing principle in my work over the last several years. And the last might still be too vague to discuss, as I am just beginning this research, but I want to try to articulate it: as a means of amplifying the plural causal associations of sounding objects.
While I find the world of ‘noise’ [loosely defined as extended techniques and found sound] to be breathtaking, rich, evocative, intoxicating, and engaging…(too much? not enough?), I realize the abstractness of these sounds, as they exist largely outside of the established semantics of western art music. It isn’t that we don’t have wonderful and effective means of thinking of the structures for tension and release, or the hierarchies of sound: I love the elegant sound/noise axis that Saariaho describes, and I find Lachenmann’s ideas of energy and assembling give amazing insights into potential taxonomies. But these concepts in combination with the non-linear narrative associations triggered by the video contexts seem to provide an incredible depth of meaning and life to the previously abstract (reduced) ‘noise.’ Not in service to a visual foregrounded element (as sight seems to take precedence for most of us), but as a treasure-trove of potential meanings that can situate these ephemera in time and musical memory. Perhaps….
she/storm‘s physical score was created on two 2’x11’ vellum sheets – it is a structured improvisation score, combining found objects, graphic notation, and text direction. The performers are given static (printed) copies of the sheets and detailed performance notes in addition to the video score. The video exists as triggered media which is controlled by one of the on-stage performers: four distinct files, each encompassing a formal section of the piece, triggered when the ensemble is ready to move to the next section.