Full duration: 16 minutes, 20 seconds (clip: 9.23-12.23)
When Mark Lowry first mentioned the idea of writing a percussion piece about timbre and “new sounds,” I immediately turned to poetry to inspire some imagery. Friend, poet and colleague, Wayne Miller recently published his book, “What Night Says to the Empty Boat: (notes for a film in verse).” I was drawn to the last poem of the text, “Clarence Playing.”
When at last Justine arrives, he’s at the piano.
The hammers strike and rise
with his fingers, and the pedal’s damp
shifting carries through the instrument
as waves echo through the frame of a ship.
Outside, each car marks a moment’s
Passing, and when a muffler rattles,
Justine looks out the window, the back
To Clarence as he presses into clay
The shape of another chord. He’s always
Imagined music as a sort of climbing—
By the song’s end, he reaches into a brief
Rapture of completion (as a child reaches
into a cabinet of sweets). Though,
Now he thinks perhaps the music’s
More like a map of rain hitting water—
He’s moving closer to her without moving;
And how wonderful to be held from her
At last by nothing but the song’s duration--
In poetry, I am intrigued by the relationship between how words visually appear on the page and how they sound. In modern to contemporary poetry, this relationship frequently creates a dichotomy, which can create a multiplicity of meaning. In music, I assimilate this texture to polyphony. In "Map," I am specifically interested in the simultaneity of these two seemingly contradictory aspects of poetry, where, in this case the rhythm of the actual words creates a proportion different from how the phrase appears on the page. This proportion determines the over-all structure (both on large and small scales). While there are several images I derived from the poem, and certainly a structural inspiration, the music is not meant to “interpret” or “paint” the poem. Ironically,most of my decisions have been very intuitive, always emphasizing sound (in this case, as very natural one) over structure. Each piece has its own individuality, and this project allowed Wayne, Mark and I to share and overlap our creative processes. As the piece evolved, a fourth collaborator became part of this project. Video artist, Caitlin Horsmon's work is featured in this clip.
Instruments and mallets:
Vibraphone, 1 bass bow, 2 hard rubber mallets (one which can be used for note bend technique), 1 soft yarn mallet (SY), Log drum (LD), (attached to another foot pedal),
Large woodblock (WB) attached to foot pedal (with muted hard rubber mallet striking), F Gong, metal rod, 14-16 inch Tam-tam (TT) and large tub of water (that Tam-tam can be submerged in).
Songbird whistle can be played live or as an audio component of the DVD.