instrumentation: soprano saxophone
details: 14 pages, including performance instructions; A3 landscape
asphyxia is an extension of my early experiments with the polyphonicization of the various components of performative, physical action involved in producing sound in/on an instrument (in this case the two primary modes of wind playing: fingers (pitch) and mouth (breath, tonguing, dynamics, articulation, inflection)). The work is notated on a minimum of two rhythmically independent staves, organized such that the final resulting sounds of the piece are not in fact denoted in the score as such but instead arise as “aural byproducts” of the interaction of the two decoupled layers. As a result of this separation, several of the notated elements in the score are only loosely audible, some as near-silent breathing through the instrument, others as fingered pitches without air flow. asphyxia is, then, as much a physical, visual work as it is an sonic one-in fact, much of the counterpoint in the piece is not predominately aural but rather is organized to produce a kind of “visual counterpoint” between the actions of the individual performative layers.
The level of destabilization and fragmentation is intentionally high, not only for the performer in his/her consistent questioning and relearning of performance technique and the unstable relationship between the notation (which tends to be so highly detailed as to disrupt a sense of hierarchy between musical parameters) and the sounding results, but also for the listener, for whom modes of narrative (or even statistical, distributive, or sectional) listening no longer suffice. Many of the constructive procedures employed arise from relatively small, distinctive cyclic structures of unequal lengths-the interaction of these micro-structures is quite unpredictable, with individual strata maintaining focused, linear paths (on any number of parametric levels). The musical surface is, therefore, a constant reconciliation of local, often contradictory trajectories and processes.
asphyxia is dedicated in friendship to Susan Fancher.