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chamber set  ~  i. threads

threads is one of a set of five pieces for chamber ensemble of flute, clarinet, piano, percussion, violin, viola, cello and computer. Each piece features a soloist, somewhat in the style of a concerto instrumentalist. The soloist exists in each movement in multiple states: either as a concerto-like performer within the ensemble, acoustically, or as a soloist, undergoing real-time processing and accompanied by pre-recorded computer processed audio.


In threads, the soloist is the alto flute/flute. The soloist at times engages in counterpoint with other members of the ensemble and at times performs its brief solo passages as a sound emerging through the rich texture of the ensemble. This leads to a longer solo passage where the alto flute becomes immersed in a new electronic texture, at times in counterpoint with itself, transformed through the use of real-time computer processing, and through performance against pre-recorded computer processed images of its own sound. The flute samples for threads were recording by David Whiteside.


The term "set" has multiple meanings. In one sense, it refers to the movements taken together to mean a set of pieces that can either be performed alone, in selected subgroups, or preferably, as a complete composition to make a full concert program.  


It also refers to the contrapuntal notion of an instrumental set, or group, composed of duos, trios or quartets, that play against another set, while they collectively play against the solo instrument for that movement. There is one set, a fixed pair of performers woven throughout each movement, which always performs together as a pair, a duet, or sometimes as part of a trio or quartet. In threads, this fixed set is the piano and cello.


These instrumental sets combine and organize in various ways. The character and nature of each performance grouping (solo, duet, trio, quartet) within a movement defines their nature and behavior within the ensemble performance, and never allows for one cohesive character to emerge as an individual voice more significant than any other. Only the complex, mature personality of the ensemble emerges. So, while there are very specific definitions and determinations for the organization of the performance sets, particular to each movement, a uniquely complex, contrapuntal voice will emerge.


The instrument sets constantly play against each other, rather than with each other, to form a rich, intermingled texture of transitions and transformations on multiple levels of counterpoint: note against note, set against set, tone color of one set against and emerging out of the tone color of the whole, so that multiple sonic layers and continuous, independent lines occur simultaneously. This allows the sets to form elisions within the instrumentation groupings, so occasionally the sets will momentarily align with like instrumentation colors (blown, struck, bowed, plucked), then move on. But never do any of the groupings allow for another solo instrument to overshadow the texture.


threads was composed in Cuernavaca, Mexico and Rosemont, Maryland in February through May 2009 and is dedicated to my friend Jacques Baldassari. threads was supported by a Subito grant from the Washington, DC Chapter of the American Composers Forum funded by the Argosy Foundation Contemporary Music Fund.

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