Compositions


Act Two Compositions

These pieces are being written with the internet in mind, and are published on this website.
They are not specifically intended for inclusion in live performances of Retrospective.
scores and recordings about
Study 1 Study 1 about Study 1
Study 2a Study 2a about Study 2a
Study 2b Study 2b1
Study 2b2
Study 2b3
about Study 2b
Study 2c Study 2c1.1
Study 2c1.2
Study 2c1.3
Study 2c2.1, Study 2c2.1b
Study 2c2.2, Study 2c2.2b
Study 2c2.3, Study 2c2.3b
Study 2c3.1, Study 2c3.1b
Study 2c3.2, Study 2c3.2b
about Study 2c


Scene Five (Song Six)

Live performances of Retrospective should use one of these settings of Song Six in Scene Five.
They can also be performed in other contexts, live or otherwise.
scores and recordings about
Setting 1 (2013-14) About Song Six

Remarks about the recordings at this site

Most of the recordings at this site were made by sending abstract MIDI information to a MIDI output device in which the sounds were defined. The MIDI output device, used during the composition and original recordings of Study 1, Study 2 and the Study 3 sketch, was the Microsoft GS Wavetable Synth built into the Windows operating system.

In March 2013, I installed the CoolSoft VirtualMIDISynth as a more flexible replacement. This virtual device can be set up to use any (locally available) soundFont.
After testing many soundFonts, I decided the one I liked best was the Arachno SoundFont version 1.0. This is the soundFont used for most of the more recent mp3 recordings on this web site. It is also the soundFont that was used as the basis for the soundFont used in the recording of Setting 1 of Song Six.
(I used the Viena soundFont editor to replace various patches/samples with patches/samples of my own to realize the speech-syllables and wind.)

The recordings at this website should definitely not be thought of as definitive versions of these pieces.
In public performances of Song Six, for example, the text should be performed live, there should be an experienced klangregisseur, and the sounds should be chosen specially for the occasion! The Arachno soundFont is good for making demonstration mp3 recordings for a website (to be played back via the web on PCs with limited audio capabilities), but may well not be ideal for use in large concert halls. In live public concerts, the klangregisseur is responsible both for choosing the sounds, and for using them effectively!


Compositions written before Act Two

These pieces were part of the context within which Act Two was conceived.
None of them has been published, and no digital scores or recordings of them currently exist. Eventually, I am hoping to publish at least some of them here.

Pianola Music (1967)
Performer: pianola player
Score: The original score is a coloured roll in space-time notation on graph paper (a piano-roll also exists).  A digital score (transcription) was made for my Assistant Performer software in 2015.
Performances: none
Recording: A series of live recordings was made on magnetic tape in 1968, but the paper roll gradually disintegrated, leading to unwanted clusters, and the pedals were increasingly loud and squeeky. This tape is still in my archives, but I have not tried to have it converted to a digital format.
In 2016, two new mp3 recordings were made (at 100% and 200% speed) by playing the 2015 score on my Assistant Performer software, using the Virtual MIDI Synth and the Grand Piano from the Arachno Sound Font.
Documentation: About Pianola Music contains the two 2016 recordings and the 2015 score (transcription), together with photographs of the original materials (score, pianola roll and analysis documents).

Untitled '70 (1970) for wind quartet with automatic conductor
Performers: wind quartet with automatic conductor
Score: space-time notation.
Performances: First performed in 1970 with a simple, large (2 metre) metronome at a student concert at the Royal Academy of Music. Later that year, the piece was also performed in public (under the title "The Lantern of Diogenes") at the Cockpit Theatre in London. This second performance was conducted by a black, four-armed "lantern" (diameter ca. 5 metres) which was lowered in the dark from the ceiling of the theatre just before the performance started. The audience sat around the players and could see only the players, their music stands and the flashing light bulbs. Each wind-player followed the lights flashing on his arm of the lantern. The music consists of apparently random, longish notes. Random harmonies happen.
Recording: none.
Notes: In the first performance, the metronome’s baton was made from the shaft of an old golf club into which a long, heavy steel rod was pushed at one end. The fulcrum was at the lower end of the golf club shaft, and the position of the weight was adjustable, so that different, very slow “tempi” could be produced. The “tempi” were so slow that they could not be stored in short-term memory. An approaching (silent) “tick” was read visually, as is the case with early, non-ticking baroque metronomes.
In the second performace, the lantern’s arms were constructed out of black conduit piping. At the end of each arm were three (four or five?) small coloured light bulbs mounted on a horizontal wooden slat. Each of the four operators (in the roof of the theatre) had a panel with a bell-push for each of his light bulbs. I lowered the lantern from the ceiling using a large fishing-reel and four invisible nylon threads.
Sadly, neither the original metronome nor the lantern have survived and there are no photographs. Sketches can be found in my notebooks...

Retrospective (1970-71)
Scene One Genesis, Prelude to Act One
Performers: 6 whisperers (3 female, 3 male)
Score: no score, but 6 independent, typewritten parts and a scenario.
Performances: none
Recording: none
Notes: the text which I constructed contains words whose meaning is ignored; time is not notated.
Scene Two Machines, Prelude to Act Two
Performers: 4 percussionists and sound-sculptures, invisible conductor
Score: no score, but 4 independent, handwritten parts and a scenario.
Performances: none
Recording: none
Notes: The “sound-sculptures” are real, on-stage sculptures, machines, or objets trouvées which make noises. This scene does not use loudspeakers.
The score is notated in 4/4 - but there is a liberal use of unmeasured (grace) notes.
The percussionist’s parts are aligned and repeated ad lib. Since each player has a different number of bars (a large prime number), the overall alignment does not repeat for many hundreds of years. The actual duration played depends on the conductor.
As with Possible Developments, a score containing a fixed alignment of the percussion parts needs to be written out - with space for notating the sound-sculptures used in a particular performance. The score should contain about 20 minutes of music, not all of which is actually played.
Act One Clytemnestra
Performers: (on stage) string quartet with dramatic alto, sound-sculptures. (off stage) 4 percussionists, tape, conductor.
Score: The original is handwritten on transparent paper (ca. A1 format). There is also a scenario.
Performances: none
Recording: none
Notes: notated using the advanced standard notation of the early 1970s.
The “sound-sculptures” are real sculptures, machines, or objets trouvées which make noises.
The score is fundamentally correct and complete, but I would need to recopy and check/revise it before giving it to any performers. The parts do not exist.

The Probability of Harmony (1971)
Performers: alto-flute, clarinet, conductor, almost inaudible tape (operated by the conductor)
Score: A long roll of paper ca. 85cm on which the clarinet part is written, and a sheet of perforated cardboard ca. 30cm x 20cm containing the flute part. There are also separate parts for the two instrumentalists.
Performances: This piece had many performances during the 1970s. The first performers were Marjorie Shansky (alto flute), Howard Davidson (A-Clarinet) and myself (conductor). We performed it at the Cockpit Theatre and subsequently at the 1971 Dartington Summer School (where Harrison Birtwistle, Peter Maxwell-Davies and Morton Feldman were in the audience).
Recording: none
Notes: The flute part has holes through which the clarinet part can be seen. The cardboard can be aligned anywhere on the roll. The clarinet plays simple notes whose duration is determined by the flutist and conductor. The flutist has unmeasured durations which decorate the clarinet’s notes. The piece stops when the tape runs out (there are five alternative tapes, each of which sounds similar but has a different duration).

Possible Developments (1971)
Performers: alto flute, cor-anglais, bass clarinet, bassoon, conductor
Score: Originally, this was a mobile score consisting of an A1 perforated cardboard sheet under which the parts for three of the instruments were aligned ad lib. (This score is in my archives.) In 1979, I made a fixed version in an ordinary score.
Performances: Apart from the Wigmore Hall performance, this piece had several earlier performances (notably at the Cockpit Theatre and Dartington Summer Schools).
Recording: I have a tape of a very good performance by the Lontano Ensemble conducted by George Mowat-Brown at the Wigmore Hall in London (1981).
Notes: The conductor coordinates and steers unnotated durations. A very voluptuous piece!

Vectors (1974-76)
Performers: 18 instrumants: 4 e-flat clarinets, 4 b-flat trumpets, 4 horns, 6 ’celli, conductor.
Score: handwritten
Performance: Donaueschingen Festival 1978. Südwestfunk Sinfonie-Orchester conducted by Ernest Bour.
Recording: Südwestfunk
Notes: Experimental time-notation. Duration class symbols define bands of possible duration.

beyond the symbolic (1978-82)
Performers: 2 flutes, 2 b-flat clarinets, 3 vibraphones, 3 violins, 2 violas, 2 ’celli, 1 double bass, conductor.
Score: handwritten
Performance: Theâtre du Rond Point in Paris in 1982. Ensemble Intercontemporain conducted by Sylvain Cambreling.
Recording: Ensemble Intercontemporain
Notes: Commisioned by the Ensemble Intercontemporain on the initiative of Nicholas Snowman.
Dedicated to Karlheinz Stockhausen.
Harrison Birtwistle, Pierre Boulez and Karlheinz Stockhausen were in the audience.
Experimental time-notation. Duration class symbols defined according to the amount of horizontal space they take in the score. The scale varies from page to page for efficient use of space and maximum legibility.
The double bass part was a problem. I need to transcribe it for some other instrument - possibly a third ’cello or a synthesizer.
This piece, which would sound good in a concert with Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht, led directly to my article The Notation of Time (published 1985)
There is a poem in the preface:
that more is
but beyond words
is will be misunderstood


The Innocent Bystander (1986-87)
Performers: choir (at least 7 S, 7 A, 5 T, 5 B), at least 1 trombone
Score: handwritten
Performance: BBC Singers, conducted by James Wood at St John’s Smith Square, London, 1987.
Recording: BBC
Notes: the time notation is as in beyond the symbolic. The idea of using symbols to express bands of possible values is extended to the pitch notation. The choir pitches, which are freely chosen in ranges related to the individual voices, are constantly sliding in ranges less than a semitone. The trombone(s) plays one note at the end of the piece.
Was written during the first AIDS crisis.