For Zoom, I took influence from the work of Chaya Czernowin, notably the magnification and concealment of ideas. However, I also wanted to incorporate instability along with these ideas. My strategy for creating the piece was to put together a short, yet sonically rich, reference material, and to use this to generate the piece. The reference material is not revealed directly in the piece itself.
The piece takes influence from Czernowin’s use of expansion and explosion in Maim and Afatsim. My interpretation of this mostly takes the form of granulation. Examples of this include slowing down of cello bow speed, quiet tuba dynamics in the high register to create granulation, timbral trills, or interpretations of how staccato noise-based sounds could be magnified. In contrast, I also wanted to be able to ‘zoom out’ of the sonically rich material, which is reminiscent of Czernowin’s Hidden; though seemingly granular, the sounds in Hidden are unable to reach their full sonic potential. These ideas often take on harmonics, staccato notes at quieter dynamics, or the piano strings being played directly for a more subtle timbre. These shifts in perspective were also influenced by Ashley Fure’s Aperture/Iris, which helped me visualize the sonic effects of ‘zooming’ in and out.
However, along with this I also wanted to occasionally transform the material, so I decided to experiment with putting the sounds in unstable situations. Firstly, I created instability in a literal sense, through techniques such as multiphonics (which can be unpredictable) on the cello and the tuba, or the loosening of the tuba embouchure that could result in an array of split tones. Secondly, I wanted to create instability in terms of human perception; there are a few examples of this in the piece. The most obvious example is in the transition at 74 where the tuba moves into its lowest register and any clear difference between the notes is imperceptible. However, more interestingly, I decided to utilise the effect of beating, using two microtonally different pitches to confuse human perception as to whether there is one note or two. This is evident in the piece through the use of slow microtonal glissandi at 42 and 83.
Finally, I wanted the instruments themselves to take control of structure and duration. I took influence from James Saunders’ interview with Rebecca Saunders where she talks about allowing the natural durations of the sounds to govern her pieces and balancing these with silence. Rather than studying the instruments and making specific durations from this as Saunders does (I did not have access to the instruments due to lockdown circumstances), I decided to allow the instruments to determine the durations in real-time. For example, the flautist at 35 is instructed to turn their flute outwards while playing a note. This results in the sound ending when air is unable to enter the flute and the amount of silence following is therefore dictated by this. Similarly, the fermata above the piano note at 39 instructs the ensemble to only continue when the note has completely died away, again letting the natural duration take control.
Click here to see a pdf of the score
Iddon, Martin, ‘Chaya Czernowin: Parcours de l’œuvre’, ircam (2015) http://brahms.ircam.fr/chaya-czernowin#parcours [04 May 2020].
Sauders, James, ‘Interview With Rebecca Saunders’, James Saunders http://www.james-saunders.com/interview-with-rebecca-saunders [04 May 2020].