“Amplification is often used as a means of increasing an ensemble’s overall volume and stage presence. This can certainly be an effective way of capturing the listener’s attention, creating an immersive experience through sheer volume. However my interest in amplification lies in its capacity to access and enhance sounds that would otherwise be weak if not inaudible to the ear. My new piece, titled Microscope, will explore the quiet intersection of cello harmonics, prepared piano, and overtones produced by scrapes, scratches and bowed percussion instruments. Microscope will be a piece in which the ensemble plays their instruments quietly while at the same time remaining extremely amplified. This I believe will create an immersive experience that paradoxically delves into the minute and otherworldly sounds that would not ordinarily carry, one which is not readily experienced in the concert hall.
Like many of my works, the piece will incorporate a pre-recorded electronic element derived from recording even quieter surfaces, the rustling of paper, the crackle of wood, the hum of electrical circuits. These sounds will interact seamlessly with music written for the ensemble. My aim is to create a hyperrealistic piece of music that combines both the attention to detail found in studio recordings with the virtuoso chamber performance of this terrific trio.
Rather than delve into atmospheric music or ambient noise, I anticipate Microscope being quite rhythmic and pulse oriented, with interlocking patterns between the three instruments. I think it will be exciting to see how these small-scale sonic gestures can build up into a cohesive and connected tapestry of sound. As far as the specific instrumentation for the piece, I imagine it to call for a rather large percussion setup, including various cymbals, brake drums, bell tree, vibraphone, opera gongs, glockenspiel, wood drums. However these instruments will be played unconventionally, with scrapes or bows, or struck with unusual mallets. The same concept will be applied to the piano and cello. The piano will be prepared by placing muting devices on the strings, rubber, felt wedges, erasers and other mutes used by piano tuners to shorten the sound. The cellist will be performing, again amplified, focusing mostly on artificial and natural harmonics, while occasionally providing powerful jabs in its lower register. The idea behind this piece lends itself to a typical arc of building naturally from silence, into the rhythmic gestures, growing into a quiet pulsing wall of sound, and then back to silence.”