Garden of Forking Paths (1998)


Garden of Forking Paths is a work not for a saxophone quartet, per se, but rather for four "interdependent" soloists. Although each individual player maintains a certain level of independence, coordination of the ensemble is strictly controlled; each "solo" line is, in essence, a distinctly separate path through the same structural, pre-compositional matrix. The players share certain proportional relationships, pitch materials, etc., though the elaboration and permutation of these materials is in many ways quite different within the ensemble. As such, Garden of Forking Paths is neither a single piece, nor four different pieces, nor four simultaneous movements of the same piece. It is a response to my growing assumption/assertion that, for each compositional choice made (even within the drastically constraining limitations of the pre-compositional, proportional framework), a seemingly infinite world of alternate choices is/was possible.

The piece is constructed of three distinct material types, each with independent permutational vectors. As each individual material type is transformed (through tempo changes, changes in articulation types, dynamic ranges, tessitura, etc.), these various material types merge, cross paths, and interact in increasingly complex ways, often transferring properties and therefore confusing the original structural strategies. This process is further distorted by the diverging/re-verging paths which govern the transformational processes: each material type maintains a separate scheme by which refraction, embedding, manipulation (of various sorts), etc., are employed: linear processes, linear "looping" (a referential cycling through "source" material), and non-linear referentiality.

The work shares its title with a short story by Jorge Luis Borges, found in the collection Labyrinths (New Directions Publishing, 1964).

Garden of Forking Paths is dedicated to the members of the Ancia Saxophone Quartet.