Word for Word (2011, 10 min.)

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for full orchestra
(3.3.3.3, 4.3.3.1, timp, 2 perc, 9.9.6.6.3)

commission: 
New York Youth Symphony
Ryan McAdams, artistic director

premiere:
Carnegie Hall, December 2011

awards: 
commissioned as a result of the 28th First Music Prize from the New York Youth Symphony

publisher: 
Unsettlement Music

program notes:

1. Ctrl-V
2. Scherzo
3. Piece of a Piece

Word for Word is a piece that uses familiar sounds in surprising contexts.

Each movement is built from a very small chunk of material. The material itself could have been ripped from a piece of orchestral music from the 19th century. However, the way this music moves through time wouldn't be possible in a world without electronic music, produced music, and music that is notated using computer software. This puts the material at odds with its organization, and makes it wholly un-19th-century.

As the piece begins, a two-measure passage of orchestral music (based on a fleeting moment from a famous old symphony) is copied-and-pasted and transposed, over and over again, each time in a slightly different way. Doing this by hand would require a composer to literally copy each modified passage over again, but of course, a composer with a computer can carry out the same process in seconds. This technology allows for endless trial and error, but has also made the act of "splicing" commonplace. The energy and tension in this opening music comes from the way that copying-and-pasting (and transposition) transforms the material over time as it were.

For this reason, the first movement is named Ctrl-V, after the standard keyboard command to "paste" copied material. [The Unix programming language defines Ctrl-V to mean "the next character should be treated literally." In this case, the "V" is for "Verbatim" - not coincidentally, a standard definiton for verbatim is "word for word."]

The second movement, continuing without a break from the first, might as well be called Ctrl-X (the analogous command for "cut"). The material is a scherzo, but through notable omissions, splices and erasures, the music points more to the frame of a scherzo or the act of listening to a scherzo.

The final movement applies these techniques in a more delicate way, slowly and carefully adding and subtracting tiny gestures from a single line of source material. In addition, the tempo and orchestration are subjected to similar transformations. Here, the music seeks to recreate the magic of discovering a piece of music for the first time - very slowly, even awkwardly, playing a single phrase over and over again, never really getting it "right" but strengthening with each reiteration the bond between the performer and the music.

WORKS

LARGE WORKS WITH VOICES

Coloring Book (2015, 30 min.)
vocal octet
The Source (2014, 65 min.)
7 instruments, 4 voices
Sound from the Bench (2014, 40 min.)
mixed choir with 2 electric guitars and percussion
Partition (2010, 20 min.)
mixed choir with full orchestra
Katrina Ballads (2007, 60 min.)
11 instruments, 5 voices


ORCHESTRA

Dispatches (2015, 18 min.)
large orchestra
Respirator (2015, 13 min.)
chamber orchestra
Stem (2013, 25 min.)
large orchestra
Law of Mosaics (2012, 30 min.)
string orchestra
First World (2012, 7 min.)
large chamber orchestra
Erasure Scherzo (2012, 6 min.)
large orchestra
Word for Word (2011, 10 min.)
large orchestra
Build a Room (2010, 20 min.)
concerto for trumpet and orchestra
Patriot (2007, 9 min.)
large orchestra


SOLO

DaVZ23BzMH0 (2016, 7 min.)
solo cello, with electronics
Parlor Diplomacy (2011, 20 min.)
solo piano
Nobody's (2010, 4 min.)
solo violin


CHAMBER MUSIC (2-5 instruments)

The Answer to the Question That Wings Ask (2016, 11 min.)
string quartet and narrator
Furtive Movements (2013, 14 min.)
cello and percussion
Interlude for Fingers (2013, 4 min.)
two vibraphones
Licorice Men (2011, 8 min.)
electric guitar quartet
Thaw (2009, 12 min.)
percussion quartet
Vessels (2008, 10 min.)
violin, viola, piano
Ghostspace (2009, 8 min.)
accordion, electric guitar, piano, drums
Crib Dweller (2007, 8 min.)
bass clarinet, trumpet, horn, trombone, elec. guitar
Warning Song (2006, 7 min.)
voice and cello, with electronics
23 (2005, 8 min.)
flute, horn, elec. guitar, piano, drums
One of Us, One of Them (2005, 8 min.)
piano and percussion
Forcefield (2004, 5 min.)
viola and vibraphone

CHAMBER MUSIC (6-13 instruments)

For the love of Charles Mingus (2016, 9 min.)
6 violins
Baby [an argument] (2016, 11 min.)
10 instruments
By-By Huey (2014, 10 min.)
6 instruments (vln, vc, fl, bcl, pno, perc)
"The Cage" Variations (2014, 20 min.)
6 instruments (fl, cl/bcl, vln, vc, pno, perc) with baritone solo
Crispy Gentlemen (2012, 15 min.)
7 instruments (fl/picc, cl/bcl, vln, vla, vc, pno, perc)
But I Voted for Shirley Chisholm (2012, 8 min.)
11 instruments, with electronics
Randos (2012, 8 min.)
7 instruments (L'Histoire septet)
Cutest Little Arbitrage (2011, 12 min.)
6 instruments (2 sax, trombone + rhythm section)
Is it Dirty (2010, 8 min.)
16 instruments with 2 singers
(alternate versions for 10 and 6 instruments)
Eyelid Margin (2009, 12 min.)
10 instruments (brass quintet + 5 double-reeds)
Snowball (2008, 6 min.)
8 instruments (bcl, tpt, tbn, vln, acc, egtr, pno, dr)
7 instruments (alt. version for L'Histoire septet)
Illuminating the Maze (2008, 15 min.)
6 instruments (tpt, hn, tbn, egtr, pno, dr)
Music from "Body Soldiers" (2008, 10 min.)
5 instruments with singer
Cordavi and Fig (2007, 8 min.)
13 instruments
Antiphon (2003, 8 min.)
9 instruments (3 cl, bcl, 3 tpt, tbn, pno)


CHORAL MUSIC

Coloring Book (2015, 30 min.)
Consent (2014, 7 min.)
Ripple (2012, 10 min.)
Privilege (2009, 14 min.)
Mass for St. Mary’s (2008, 10 min.)

Music for youth choir:
Room for Something (2011, 8 min.)
Away (2010, 6 min.)
Because (2006, 6 min.)
Murder on the Road in Alabama (2003, 6 min.)


SOLO VOICE

Intimacy and Resistance (2010, 5 min.)
voice and piano
Charleston Songbook (2008, 20 min.)
voice and piano w/ lead sheets
I Remember (2007, 8 min.)
for three sopranos, or one soprano w/ electronics
I Carry Your Heart (2007, 5 min.)
voice and piano


COLLABORATIVE WORKS

Hand Eye (2015)
New Dances for the League of David (2014) 
You're Causing Quite a Disturbance (2013)
R WE WHO R WE (2013)
Histories (2012)