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for two instruments

program notes


for two was composed in 1982 for any two performers and places emphasis on musical gestures and indeterminacy of performance. Using instruments of availability allows for numerous performance permutations. Notated without clefs, performers supply the appropriate clefs for their instrument and may use multiple clefs, and instruments, during the performance. In many instances, actual pitches are not supplied, only suggested by arrows up and down and by the shape of the line of successive arrows, aided by the use of accidentals. These techniques assure that the results of each performance will vary in timbre, the actual pitches, and the counterpoint between the instruments. But most importantly, no matter what the instrumentation, the contour of the musical line, the rhythm and the musical gestures remain the same.

Since 1999 for two has included an improvisation section. Shortly before the end of the piece, both players launch into an improvisation on themes presented up to that point in the piece and end the improvisation with a portent on the material that opens the final section and concludes the performance. The improvisation section enhances the overall feeling of free play in the composition, the ability to keep the piece fresh each time it is performed and the willingness by the composer to allow performers some control in the determination of the final performance of the composition.

The realization prepared for the Gaudeamus Festival in the Netherlands in 2003 by Lina Bahn on violin and Colin Oldham, cello, began the use of real-time processing of the performance of for two.

To add to the ever evolving nature of the composition, a 2005 performance of for two included audio processing of the instruments, with the addition of interactive brain waves controlling the animation of a Lotus flower using EEG and biofeedback, created by Paras Kaul.

A performance at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) LIVEWIRE2 Festival 2011 with Lisa Cella, flute, and Gita Ladd, cello, included computer musician William Brent. William enhanced the performance with real-time audio processing software which he designed specifically for this instrumentation, to create what I call "immersion processing". In this technique, inordinate amounts of processes are applied to the two instruments in varying combinations, creating an intense effect where the sound of the live instruments at times fades behind the processed sounds emerging in the hall, and at times the processed sound fades so the instrument sounds reveal their sonic images like the sky peering through clouds. The technique of immersion processing transparently shifts the timbre and texture of instrumental sounds into a realm of transfigured sound, where the instrumental sound almost disappears. In this environment, when pushed to the extreme, there is often a complete absence of a focused sense of pitch and rhythm, yet they are used as the generators of sound.

An exceptionally imaginative performance of for two occurred at the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC on March 17, 2016 with Lina Bahn on violin, Matt Haimovitz on cello and William Brent on computer.

for two SCORE
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