LAbO #5— November 2015
Polytemporal Ensemble Piece
I was accepted onto the week-long LaBO project, hosted at deSingel in Antwerp in November 2015. On the first and second day of this I had the opportunity to work with musicians and coaches to workshop this piece; a polytemporal composition experimenting with the use of scrolling video score. The piece was designed to be as accessible as possible on a performance level, and so is heavily focused on tonal improvisation in a polytemporal setting. I brought with me a selection of click tracks derived from the Excel formula to accommodate multiple players, and a scrolling video score made in Sibelius and Adobe Premiere Pro. The notation features a treble and bass clef, with four lines which can be chosen by instrumentalists and played in an octave of their choosing. I added colours to each note, making it appear more like a fusion of standard notation and piano roll, so as to differentiate the lines and emphasise note durations. The score scrolls from left to right, allowing performers to follow in real time.
For Section A players would follow their chosen line, sustaining the notes until they reached the next. The result of this would be that all players are in rhythmic unison, despite having independent click tracks in their headphones.
For Section B, chords are shown as well as notation. Performers could then improvise their own rhythmic patterns using chord tones, creating lines according to their click tracks, however changing from chord to chord as the piece scrolls. Chords could also be harmonically extended if players choose to. The concept here was for the independent tempi to become more pronounced at low level, while the harmonic rhythm and tonal centers (higher level) remained consistent across the group. Section C sees a continuation of this, with an increasing dynamic and instructions to perform more pulse-based rhythmic ideas using chord tones. Section D then moves to solos over static chords. At this point soloists would take turns to improvise while the other players ‘comp’ beneath in their tempi.
Reception and Feedback
I was fairly pleased with the sonic result of the piece, and the performers found it and interesting concept and way of working. It was noted that although the scrolling notation was played correctly it scrolled slightly too fast, resulting also in it not being as graphically smooth as it could have been; this made for some difficulty and inaccuracy in performance. Players noted also that they would prefer to have a wider view so as to see further ahead in the notation, enabling them to anticipate coming passages. Coach Stefan Prinz commented that the improvisatory nature of the piece could potentially result in the core element of the piece, the temporal dissonance, being lost as there is a lack of pulse-based playing in the performers’ fluid lines; after this comment the group performed the piece again, focusing more on accenting their respective pulses, and avoiding heavily syncopated lines. The result of this did make the conflicting tempi become more evident, although I did like the ‘looser’, more spacious style of previous performances — I feel that in order to best convey the temporal dissonance the piece should move between strict rhythmic playing and improvisation in a more exaggerated way within the sections.