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Composing a Viable (If Transitory) Self Author(s): Brian Ferneyhough and James Boros Source: Perspectives of New Music,

Vol. 32, No. 1 (Winter, 1994), pp. 114-130 Published by: Perspectives of New Music Stable URL: . Accessed: 21/03/2011 19:15
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I SEEM TO RECALL your discussing the notion of musical complexity in terms

of the dynamic transmission of information and its relationshipto states of stability and instability. Among other things, that's true. How to get a grip on the entire concept of "complexity" as applied to art has proven to be a major bone of contention. I have not been satisfied by what I have understood concerning the algorithmic definition, which measures complexity in terms of the number of algorithmic operations required to analyze-out a given state. For one thing, that's not how the brain works; for another, it's certainly not how most art seems to work. My own interests have gravitated towards how our perceptual ordering faculties react when attempting to *Brian Ferneyhough, JamesBoros.

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make sense of borderline states-that is, situations in which an apparent disbalance between implied scale of observed system and actual apportionment of confirming or disconfirming subsystems conspires to create zones of instability in which linear modes of cataloguing incoming stimuli are suspended in favor of sudden leaps, fractures, or twists of focus. All music deals with this issue on one level or another; it's just that most stylistic conventions aim at large-scale equilibrium between containing frame and degree of permitted deviation of component details, whereas what I am aiming at is pretty much the reverse, in that what, in other music, might be seen as enhancing embellishment is constantly causing a high level of uncertainty about what the implied scale of the relationship "frame/detail" might be. The way it does that is partly by exhibiting high levels of self-referentialityand embedding procedures (encouraging "sliding" from one self-similar level to another), partly by having information presented in highly energized, coherent streams or vectors tending to offer concurrent, competing, and sometimes contradictory middle-ground "micro-narratives."It's not just a question of confusion, though: the sort of grid- or matrix-orientated formal techniques I usually use tend to bring about momentary clarificationswhere partial aspects of independently-moving patterns suddenly coincide, creating sudden, unexpected "windows." In fact, "complexity" in such cases is often increased by such unpredictable nodes, since the sudden increase in perceived structuralhierarchymakes passive, generalized reception difficult. SteveMcAdams once wrote: "A compositionof sufficient, controlledcomplexity might ... be perceptuallyinfinite for a given listener."1WhenIfirst read this, I immediately thought of your orchestralwork La Terre est un homme. I don't know in what context that statement was made, but, as it stands, it certainly corresponds pretty closely to my own thoughts on the matter. Of course, "complexity" is always relative to the implied position of the observer; even superficiallyquite simple phenomena can easily be "deconstructed" into unimaginably complex and, in detail, unpredictable flow patterns. The point about La Terre... is not that I am proposing something that, measured according to some absolute metaphysicalscale, is quantitatively or qualitatively more complex than many another possible object of aesthetic appreciation, but rather that I am concerned with keeping the listener constantly aware of complexity as an inescapable given. In a good performance, at least, it's not possible to retreat to some globally undifferentiated impression: instead, the ear is constantly entrapped in some fine- or rough-grained strand of activity, or else engaged in the transition from one to another. That's why any given strand is highly detailed and defined according to its own internal frame

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of reference, as well as interlocking, on a higher level, with the activities and energies of other concurrent strands. This, together with the fact that I try not to prescribe more or less prioritized paths through the structure, would seem to correspond pretty much with the tenor of McAdams's statement. In an earlier interview with Richard Toop,you recalled some very vivid dreams, and you describedsomeparts of La Terre ... that are "a very shadowyand distant reflection"2of scoreswhichyou found yourselfexamining in those dreams. I've also had the strange experienceof waking up in the morning with the solution to a musical problemfully formed in my head, handed to me, as it were, on a platter, all of which makes me wonder about the roleplayed bytime spent asleepin relation to the compositional process. I wonder about it too, most often in terms of why solutions to particular problems come to me when just about to fall asleep, or at the end of a half-waking period during the night-under circumstances, that is, practically guaranteed to cause them to disappear again before I can write them down. Personally, a night's sleep seldom seems to bring me nearer the sought-after goal. On the other hand, it may be that I am simply not conscious of what is really going on. How does one tell? I have always needed much more sleep than the average person; maybe this has something to do with the pressures attached to the creative process. But these are such personal issues that I wouldn't even begin to draw general conclusions. The most lasting effects of sleep on my composing have always been dreams-not the dreams in which actual sounds occur, but ones where I find myself leafing through a completed score. Some of these have been extremely disturbing (as when one seems to be furiously devouring a score, once lost, now found, about to be lost again); others have been lastingly encouraging, making me aware of riches within, even in "dry" periods. I've never actually set out to transcribe or recreate any of these scores in toto, but I've sometimes seen resemblances in areas of nuance and detail buried in otherwise quite different works long after the fact. Even allowing for the distorting effect of the suspension of the critical faculty in such situations, I find it amazing that the subconscious can come up with entire densely woven orchestral (or, in one case, orchestral and choral) scores in the space of a single brief dream. The score of mine which, I suppose, comes closest to the aesthetic of these images is La Terre..., but that took more than two years to compose. I find it interesting that you have collected a voluminous quantity of "compositional referencematerials" over the years. I have always ritualistisuch things upon the completionof a work,perhapsas a way of cally destroyed purging myself: Other than creating clutter, what role does this material play in your life?

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It's true that it does that! Certainly those materials are not there to be referred to by me in any systematic fashion. For one thing, they are in a completely unordered and slowly decaying state as the result of many moves and several accidents over the last twenty-five years, so that they have come to resemble a miniature Libraryof Babel, conceptually stimulating but referentially useless; for another, the specific steps that led to current positions are, for me, at best anecdotally interesting. Perhaps they represent a sort of repository of knowledge and belief, something like a shell, constantly growing and equally swiftly outgrown? In any case, transmogrified documentation is part of tradition; it resembles somewhat in that respect our canon of fairy stories or folk myths. Maybe such traces are, to the individual, what prevailing communal paradigms represent to a society? In this way, rather than "creating clutter," they are there but not there, meaningful by dint of their functional absence. When I first started composing, there were very few byproducts of this sort, or else they were not consciously preserved. It's probably only since the early seventies that rough workings have accumulated, particularlyfor larger works, like FirecycleBeta (1969-71), where layers or groups would be tested out in isolation before being inserted in the score. I've never really produced rough scores as such, owing to my habit of producing a definitive score parallel to the sketching process, so that it would be difficult, if not impossible, for someone other than myself to trace a path through the records that still exist. In any case, one should bear in mind that not all works naturally generate a lot of sketch material; there are some, too, where the level of definition of the sketches is too distant from the final result to be other than problematic as to attribution. In the case of Richard Toop's analyses3 I was quite surprised as to the things he came up with-things that I no longer remember doing, but am, on the basis of his evidence, prepared to admit that I really did! Probably it is less old sketches which are sometimes of utility than old, mostly unperformed compositions. As one's style develops consistency of focus and a strong sense of direction it is inevitable that some aspects of one's initial potential wither and fall by the wayside, or at least remain fallow. Every few years I like to unearth some of those early scores and try to relocate the beginnings of paths not taken. It is always interesting and sometimes creatively enlightening. At the very least, it encourages me to view some of the efforts of present-day composition students with a healthy portion of humility! Actually, it occurs to me now that there is one example of a sketch which was deliberately destroyed after a piece was written. At the outset of FirecycleBeta I composed a worked-out score page for full orchestra, complete in every detail. After acting as the quarry from which all other


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elements and relationships were ultimately derived, this was made inaccessible by burning. The actual page of origin was thus not incorporated as such into the final work, which in any case remained a torso not including many of the instruments which that generating page specified. Looking back on it, the deed does sometimes seem gratuitously demonstrative;on other occasions it still makes a valid statement as to the mutually consuming pyrrhic relationship between spontaneity and technical discipline. The analysesby Toopwhichyou describeabovemake extensivereferences to however,I have yet to read an analysis of one of your works your sketches; which is based only on what one hears, or what one seesin the score,without resortto sketchmaterials. There is a problem common to most ventures of that sort, which, in the analysiscourse I have lately been teaching, I term "appropriateness." How does one ascertain with a reasonable degree of assurance what is a relevant way of approaching an unfamiliarwork? Sometimes general stylistic attributes suffice to locate a piece and its concerns; at other times we can refer to the place the work occupies in the creative career of the composer, thus inferring something with respect to concerns and aesthetic priorities; on still other occasions the nature of the processes visibly/ audibly at work permit a certain amount of legitimate extrapolative speculation. There are also compositions, on the other hand, in which recognition and articulation of a particularproblem or barrieraffords an entry into a field of possible discourse in which work and reception are intertwined. I start from the assumption that "pure," value-free listening would require some sort of cultural amnesia which itself would act as a significant barrier to meaningful apprehension and reflection. Thus, one is never starting from a single fixed point, but always from a binary relation, whose poles are aural/visual stimulus and presumptive perceptual framework: the analyst just has to pick up some ball or other and run with it to see what happens. I am not by any means implying that analyses of the sort you describe are not possible; simply that they are always something in the nature of a poetic recreation whose ultimate degree of independence from its nominal object becomes itself an object of further reflective assessment. The usefulness of the odd concrete analysis of values and operations actually employed by the composer is useful in a quite different way than one might initially assume, in that it provides a fairly stable point of departure for more informed associative flights. A "free" analytical discourse on and around a piece needs, in my view, to take account of the entire available work-process, by which I don't (necessarily) mean privileged access to the composer's workshop, but the chain from score image

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through various stages of the interpretational process right up until the act of reception itself. Anything less than that is not likely to be much more substantial than the averagely ephemeral newspaper review. and "process" in many different contexts. Tou've used the terms "object" For example, I recall your contrastingyour own music, and its concernwith athe matter of the musical objectand its processualmanifestation,"4 with that of Chris Dench, referring to his desire to create a flow of "nonobjects." Other composers, such as Stockhausen,Cage, and Steve Reich, have used in "processes" very different ways.How doesyour approachdiffer? I have no axe to grind with terminology. An "object," for me, is simply a span of experience which is either sufficiently constant in itself, succeeds in defining its own outer boundaries with a reasonable degree of credibility, or balances out the conflicting demands of short-term memory and elapsed time so as to lock them into a unique perceptual frame and lend the impression of a certain "out-of-time-ness." A "process," by the same token, is a musical activity in which these levels are not coordinated in the same way, and whose complete identity is thus revealed only by accretion and degradation, whereby middle- and short-term memory are invoked to different degrees. Processes are interesting precisely because of the immensely rich interplay between memory and predictive imagination they involve, but also because they extend the concept of "object" into more explicitly temporal domains. Process might even be said to be the shadowsof objectsin time. The late Robert Smithson once wrote: "Objects are sham space, the excrement of thought and language. Onceyou start seeing objectsin a positive or negative way you are on the road to derangement. Objectsare phantoms of the mind, asfalse as angels."5 Might it not depend on how false, and in what sense, you think angels are? One could equally argue, I suppose, that thought and language are the excrement of objects, to the extent that categories presuppose societal objectivizations of self and other. Smithson was an outstanding thinker, especially in respect of his capacity to create and mobilize a most impressive arsenal of mental correspondences to deeply felt, but perhaps intellectually vague, communal perceptions. The very openness of some of his analogies is perhaps their most potent advocate, while a number of his provocative linguistic conjunctions are quite electric in their release of hitherto scarcely sensed bundles of "coherent intuition." There is something of a parallelhere to the shamanistic invocatory resonance of Joseph Beuys, except that, with Smithson, the supersaturated quality of the objects is almost invariablybathed in a brilliant, if still deeply ambiguous, Cartesian luminance. It is the obstinate persistence of Beuys's personal icons of experience in the world at large which renders them capable of


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reshaping the experience of others on an appropriately preconscious level, even as the ratio begins to come into focus: Smithson's work seems significantly more unstable and provisional (in a positive sense), even when manifest through his most massive land art pieces. He was deeply aware of how close even the most ordered fields of perception are to collapsing into chaos, and was, in consequence, concerned to name this propensity as a condition of its creative harnessing. It is quite striking how the sense of the transitory informs both his metaphors and his artistic production. In that respect he was admirablyconsistent. Your citation is a case in point-whether one agrees with (or even understands) him or not. In any case, his statement is a quite extraordinaryone for a sculptor to make, don't you think? The work which has recently occupied me, for violin and eight instruments, is entitled Terrain: it might, I suppose, be considered a distant reflection of some of Smithson's "mental tectonics" imagery of the ruined inner world, even though the title is in fact taken from a poem by A. R. Ammons which also concerns itself with meditations on geological and other natural phenomena as manifested in the living world around

Terrain's ensembleof eight instruments is identical to that of Octandre. Is the workin any way a tribute to Varese? I suppose one could call it the payment of a long-standing debt. Octandre was always extremely important to me, for one because it was the first truly modern work I ever heard, for another because I, as a wind player, could immediately appreciate and relate to Varese's sonic imagination in that medium. I wrote a lot of quite extended pieces for combinations of wind instruments in the very early sixties, some of whose textures are all too clearly derivative of Varesianmannerisms, while unfortunately demonstrating little of his (in)formal acumen. So, once the idea of writing for concertante violin arose, I immediately focused on the vision of a violin/ensemble opposition towards which, apart from textural and processual distinctions, the color and weight of the Octandre combination would make a major contribution. When you think about it, it's actually rather strange that this grouping never became a "standard"octet formation. It contains both a wealth of possible subensembles and an impressivelycutting "bite" when employed as a single mass instrument. What proved most useful to me, actually,was the vast palette of registrallydefined timbral nuances available:as well as more or less stable chordal states defined by absolute registral distribution, I was able to insert particular instruments in ways which would transform the entire perceived tessitura relationship of individual chordal components, thus allowing partial aspects of chords to be separated out

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and functionally distinguished by being heard as "high" or "low" irrespective of their actual registral location. Actually, Octandre strikes me as being really rather relevant (again?) at the present time, for quite other reasons. Perhaps one of the few things that the brief flourishing of "postmodern" style collage has left behind has been an increased sensibilization to how the edges and points of contact of systems (in the wider sense of comportmental taxonomies) are usefully defined. It is interesting to observe young composers turning increasingly away from collage towards montage techniques, in which the formal ploys integral to certain types of stylistic and procedural homogeneity are objectified, isolated, dissected, and, ultimately, dynamically subverted by seemingly alien trajectories and rhetorical categories being extracted from them. It is perhaps one way of registering "decentered" deconstructivist formal innovation while resisting its implicitly high modernist residual vocabulary. In this sense, both consistency and fracture can be made to seem interestingly complementary, rather than simply staring resentfully at each other over an unbridgeable void. Unlike some of the composer's later pieces, both of these principles are powerfully at work at point-blank range in Octandre. Just look, for instance, at how the "cut and paste" interchanges in the first movement set about demolishing the linear emphasis of the various harmonic strata so explicitly proposed in the opening measures, the way our sense of time passing skitters confusedly over the surface of that fast-but-immobile dyad at the beginning of the second movement, and the weird "timemachine" quality of the fugato which opens the last movement. None of these experiential fault lines would have functioned half as well if the harmonic frameworkhad not been so obviously and coherently consistent in its setting up of transitional situations whose good graces are then so peremptorily overridden by extreme textural disjunction. Your description of Terrain makes me think of Mnemosyne, which, to me, is a frighteningly bizarre landscape, a slowlysolidifying temporal ooze. When listening to the piece, I experiencea strong sense of persistent queasiness;it's as if I'm being repeatedlytossedinto the air and forced to "hit the ground running," always at a different speed and angle, to continually adjust my mentalframe of referenceas bestI can. The treatment of time in is merely Mnemosyne also raises the old question of whether consciousness "a spectator who experiencesnothing but an 'action replay' of the whole drama."6 What are yourfeelings? I see my own view of things as being more dynamic than that, with consciousness resembling more a novelist, so furiously writing the "supreme fiction" of perception that he has no time to stop and reread what he has written. It depends whether you accept the now somewhat

Composing a Viable (if Transitory)Self


discredited image of a little person inside your head riding herd over a flood of value-free, unordered incoming data. I reckon the process of constructing a viable (if transitory) self to be extremely conflictual and chaotic in nature, so that the sort of desperate struggle to stay afloat in the turbulent "delay wake" of listening which I envisage strikes me as a pretty adequate paradigm for the engenderment of self-awareness. If the question is suggesting that the "inner witness" makes sense of an experience after the event by replaying it in more or less unaltered form, then I cannot agree. Whatever one actually experiences during a performance, the "piece" that one subsequently retains in the memory is usually a complete recomposition-edited, filtered, and reordered. That, in part, is why rehearing a composition is extremely important: you have the chance to actively map real-time and memory-time experiences onto one another. The shocking discrepancies that one sometimes encounters are further defining aspects of a notional topology of consciousness. To get back to your comments regarding Mnemosyne:in a sense, the piece works as a mirror image of what I said about time flow in my music in general. It emphasizes what I term elsewhere the "tactility" of time, where one senses ruptures or unevennesses in the temporal flow almost as much a form of physical contact as the sonic events themselves. I composed the relationship between the rate of harmonic change and the density of surface figuration so as to encourage the mind to move "too fast" and, as a result, find itself constantly pulled up short by the slightly counterintuitive viscosity of information presentation. As the piece goes on, the linear dimension is progressively imprisoned, its impetus absorbed by an ever-tighter lattice of vertical reference pitches. The more insistent the presence of harmony as passive obstacle, the more the mind begins to focus in on time in terms of momentary degrees of resistance rather than spaces within which it naturally unfolds. The more claustrophobic this situation becomes, the more temporal flow manifests itself as physical substance rather than a relational frame of reference within which materials are sequentially disposed. That's how I feel it, anyway. Have you exploredthis approachin any otherpieces? Probably the first movement of my Third String Quartet (1987) would come the nearest, even though the means employed are scarcely comparable. The movement is composed of some twenty-three "types" of activity, some of which are relatively stable (such as, for instance, a particular nontransposing chord), others being much more fluid in their potential for variable realization (such as "glissando," which can be adapted to the specific needs of many contexts). The entry, duration, and density of type-superincumbence for the first two-thirds of the discourse were planned in advance, with the values being mirror-reversedfor the


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final third. The essential difference was that not only was the order reversed, but the actual types themselves were exchanged with their opposite numbers at the other end of the chain; i.e. type 2 became type 22, type 3 was replaced by type 21, and so on. The effect of this reversalwas to thrust me into a situation where what had initially been a relatively "natural" flow of material (where the characteristicsof each type had largely been reflected in their temporal extension) became a series of abrupt accommodations and stratagems, attempting to fit types into spaces and combinatorially specified roles which were often completely counterintuitive, having in no way been foreseen at the outset. I personally feel this "unease" of the materials at finding themselves in inappropriateor downright alien temporal environments quite audible and disturbing. Tour notion of a "viable (if transitory) self' brings to mind a commentby Antonin Artaud: "What is difficult is to find one'splace and to reestablish communication with one'sself."7 This difficulty arises each time I sit down to write music! For example, while working on thefinal section of my most recent work, which tooksome two years to complete,I found myselfbecoming increasingly uncertain as to who or what my "self' was, at that particular point in both "compositional"and "real" time, in relation to the "self" which began thepiece. So much had changed! There are many twentieth-century works which address (consciously or unconsciously) the temporality of the compositional act as a perceptual transformation of the locus of self-awareness. The major composer who comes immediately to mind here is Bernd Alois Zimmermann. Not only did he seek to define self in almost theological terms as the zero point of intersection at the center of his "Time Sphere," in which all periods and styles are notionally reconciled; he also produced at least one work, Die Soldaten, in which frequent simultaneity of discrepant strands of dramatic action powerfully conspire to suggest dimensions of "temporal harmony" and "dissonance." If one listens to the entire opera one is immediately struck by the stylistic mutation that its language progressively undergoes. To me, this suggests a quite different sort of temporality, in which an entire era of compositional perception and technique passes in ever more intense and personal review-almost, on a much larger scale, like the famous Bergian "color crescendo." Apropos of such considerations, what about the impact made by the Prelude as it collides full tilt with the opening of the first scene? Since the Prelude seems to have been composed last of all, the effect of temporal reversalis like some apocalyptic time machine or centripetal mechanism attempting to thrust all those explosive energies back into the genie's bottle.

Composing a Viable (if Transitory)Self


Interestingly enough, I have on occasions been forced to compose pieces backwards-perhaps one might speculate that the discourse's polarity had somehow been reversed? How wereyou 'forced"to compose them backwards? Refining the precompositional processes involved in Terrain, it just happened that a useful level of definition was arrived at for the second half of the piece first. I'd sketched out the entire form (measure lengths, sectional paradigm switches, tempi and texture strategies, and so on) fairlyrapidly,and it was the progressive growth of this momentum which brought supplementary ideas into play as I approached the end. So that's where I started. It was quite interesting to approach the opening violin solo from that perspective, rather than allowing everything that follows to emerge, as it were, from it. It's lucky for us that time is reversible, at least during the compositional act. You've recently written several percussion pieces (Fanfare for Klaus Huber (1987), Bone Alphabet (1991)). Whythis seeminglysudden interest in percussion? Just circumstances, as it happens. After listening, increasingly unwillingly, to several generations of the sort of percussion piece requiring an extensive "kitchen" of instruments disposed in entire labyrinths of stands and other paraphernalia(so that you can always tell when the performer is getting round to the tam-tam . .), I swore never to compose for percussion alone. What changed my mind in the first place was the request to compose a one-page piece for my old composition teacher's sixtiethbirthday festschrift. Rather than composing a solo flute piece or something similar, I decided to address the issue of free instrumentation within very specifically stated constraints. If you look at the score (conforming to the one-page edict, but only just . ..), you will see that two categories of timbre are defined: (1) sonorities capable of being grouped in reasonably homogeneous gamuts of high and low (like wood blocks, or tom-toms), which change every couple of measures, and (2) a whole series (over thirty, I think) of so-called "unique sounds," each of which is to be played once only. The piece can be performed several times in the same concert, rather like a "motto" or interlude (my model being the fanfare beginning both the 1610 Vespers and the later operas of Monteverdi), but each time, a new set of unique sounds must be selected. Since each performer is instructed to select his instrumentarium without consulting the other player, it's clear that all sorts of strange conjunctions could arise-rather like renga-form poetry, or certain practices of the Surrealist writers who composed collaborative texts, like The Magnetic Fields of Breton and Soupault. Given the original constraints, it seemed to me that only the percussion medium could give me such flexibility of


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interpretation. I like the idea of totally unforeseen sonic results; unfortunately, although the piece has been played a lot in Europe, I have yet to hear it. And Bone Alphabet? Bone Alphabet had an odd history, too. When Steve Schick, whom I had known some years earlier in Europe through his forming a duo with the pianist James Avery, came to teach at UCSD, he asked me to write him a piece which would also utilize an extremely restricted group of instruments. His idea was to have something with which he could tour, and which would not be dependent on unreliable or nonexistent local instruments. Initially I was not attracted to the idea but, the more I thought about it, the more I came to see this limitation as a challenge quite different from those arising from my lengthy occupation with more "normal" instruments, which were capable of extremely subtle inflectional and timbral nuance. Since we had agreed on a maximum of seven instruments, all with similar attack and decay characteristics, I determined to compose a truly polyphonic piece in which the performer and I would have to address the problem of realizing up to four complex lines simultaneously, each line being able, in principle, to include any or all of the seven basic sounds. Again, I opted not to choose the instruments myself; instead, I placed certain limitations on the choice available. For instance, no two adjacent instruments could belong to the same basic family of sonorities. I did this so that the frequently occurring tremoli between neighboring instruments would assure rich sonic results. Not having particular sonorities in my mind as I composed (which actually involved a certain amount of disciplined renunciation) meant that I could concentrate entirely on the formal issues at hand. Did your familiarity with Schick'sperforming abilities have any influence on thefinal outcome? Steve has a really inimitable playing style, almost balletic in terms of how he stores and then releases packets of "bodily memory." The way I brought that into play was to demand multiple superimposed rhythmic cycles, the coordination of which would require just such actionistically mnemonic triggers. In that sense, it is a piece that needs to be seen as well as heard. The stripped-down nature of Bone Alphabet's sonic world encouraged me, too, in my further investigation of some of the concerns I mentioned earlier, in particular, linear versus nonlinear modes of formal organization. The piece was composed on the basis of a thirteen-layer rhythmic matrix articulating a form subdivided, both by process and tempo differentiation, into thirteen sections. Each of these, with the exception of, I think, three, were further subdivided. I set out by associating each of

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these main sections with a type of "textural comportment" which would dictate both type and density of activity and the specific layers of the original matrix to be mined for material. Each section was then composed straight through in its totality, and the thirteen sections composed from 1 through 13, with the result that a certain quasilinear development of availableresources emerged. Having arrivedat this relatively conventional narrativestructure, I then cut up each section into its constituent subsections (some as short as one measure in length) and redistributed them according to a plan which established a new "story line" for each type. For instance, type 1 ("twovoice, iterative, asynchronous figures") was redistributed by length, the longest and shortest versions coming first, then moving gradually towards the median durations as the end of the work approaches. The other, less frequently appearing types were reordered according to other principles, and the totality of segments was arrangedin subcycles of alternately three and four elements. As with the Third Quartet, the insertion process began relatively simply by reason of the fairly large choice available; as I began to exhaust certain types, however, aesthetically satisfactory local solutions were increasingly difficult to find. It is here, too, that the single-instance types were interjected, still further confusing the issue with their seemingly unmotivated outbursts. . .. Whichbrings us back to your response to my initial question, and to your tendency to eschewtraditional, straightforward developmentin favor of asuddenleaps,fractures, or twists offocus." Whythis need to, asyou put it, the issue,"to court the "counter-intuitive"? "confuse I think I must have a pretty confused brain-or else a notably suspicious nature. Let's put it the other way round: I can see why someone might want to compose a "what you see is what you get" sort of music, in which the motivating issues involved have a very clear, immediate, and relatively stable relationship to material and operational identity. Some of it is as bracing, say, as a good crossword puzzle; some might even open the door to new perceptual vistas by virtue of its ability to tackle transformation in very small, constantly repeated steps. In the latter case, though, some sort of anamorphosisis almost inevitably at work-some distortion sensitizing our receptive antennae to discrepancies or fault lines in the correspondence of implied concept and realized manifestation. A lot of the later Feldman pieces typically work in this way, constantly defamiliarizing (by odd numbers of repetitions, extreme duration, or slight phase decoupling, for instance) things which have become so familiar a part of the weave as to be almost invisible. That, in itself, is a form of "twist of focus," don't you think? It's a temptation, I know, to consider the qualities you mention in your question as attributes of a style

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rather than characteristicsof pretty much universal validity. It's true that my music happens to highlight insistently some of the more unstable and seemingly arbitraryfacets of current compositional thinking: that necessarily follows from what happens to interest me, which is the expressive potential of ambiguous and volatile states. It would be a mistake, though, I feel, to assume that "continuity" on some level or other is not a prerequisite of my approach-no fracture or twist can be perceived per se unless it is a fracture or twist of something,at least one of whose constituent defining qualities or fundamental assumptions is understood as providing a referential constant. I make two assumptions of this sort at the very outset-firstly, that unity and continuity of style are necessary in order to define and unleash these structural dissonances and, secondly, that analogical frames of reference(categories of "seeing something as') are freely transferrable between articulative levels of whatever order of magnitude and formal scope. So, it's all very relative. Although I obviously see the area I'm working in as located at the center of where current sensibility is moving, in terms of how art can make an active contribution to how we come to see the world as we do, I'd be the last person to suggest that foregrounding this aspect is the only strategy available. I hope not!


Perspectivesof New Music


1. Stephen McAdams, "Hearing Musical Streams," Computer Music Journal 3, no. 4 (Winter 1979): 42. 2. Richard Toop, "Brian Ferneyhough in Interview," Contact 29 (1985): 9. 3. See, for example, "Brian Ferneyhough's Lemma-Icon-Epigram," Perspectivesof New Music 28, no. 2 (Summer 1990): 52-100, or "Superscriptio pour flute piccolo solo," Entretemps 3 (February 1987): 95-106. 4. Brian Ferneyhough and James Boros, "Shattering the Vessels of Received Wisdom" Perspectivesof New Music 28, no. 2 (Summer 1990): 38. 5. Robert Smithson, cited in Gregoire Muller and Gianfranco Gorgoni, The New Avant-Garde (New York:Praeger Publishers, 1972), 17. 6. Roger Penrose, TheEmperor'sNew Mind (New York:Oxford University Press, 1989), 443. 7. Antonin Artaud, Selected Writings (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1976), 82.