The Misprision of Transparency


SKU: 200101 Category: Tags: , ,


instrumentation: viola d’amore with optional amplification
date: 2001
duration: 13’30
details: 23 pages, including performance instructions; A3 landscape

Programme Note

the misprision of transparency is dedicated with sincerest respect to Garth Knox. The title is borrowed from the final line of a poem entitled “Glass” (in the collection, Crystallography) by the Canadian poet, Christian Bök. “Misprision,” as a term, has undergone something of an evolution due to the work of the literary critic Harold Bloom. Though in its original context the word refers to the maladministration of public office or to the notions of contempt or disdain, in Bloom’s jargon, “misprision” is the literary process by which an poet intentionally misreads the work of an influential predecessor in an attempt to “win imaginative space” for him/herself in his/her own work.

This method of false transcription forms the central groundwork for this new work for viola d’amore through a rhythmic rereading of Rodericus’s stunning Chantilly Manuscript ballade, “Angelorum Psalat.” I was immediately struck by the similarities of Rodericus’s rhythmic structures and procedures to my own previous work and was able to filter the original proportional relationships through my own structural and metrical grids. This “misreading” of the ballade’s three verses forms three structural “pillars” from which the remainder of the material of the work radiates, emanates, dissolves, mutates, etc. As such, all individual “fascicles” (with connotations from the worlds of both books and botany) are themselves further misreadings or transcriptions of material which is itself already at least one step removed from the original source material.

On a much larger scale, the piece is concerned with the notion of space and spatiality, and, more specifically, with my assertion that synchronic temporal models necessarily presuppose three-dimensional formal organization. Thus, though the 23 referential fascicles of the work are tightly related to one of the three original verses of the Rodericus transcription, they are in no way conceived of in a Burroughs-esque “cut-and-paste” redistribution of otherwise linear transformations and narratives (in which, in the final analysis, the original diachronic vectors are cognitively restored). Further, the work is not merely an attempt at formal “granularity” through fragmentation and dispersal. Rather, the work operates on three “multi-dimensional” planes (to borrow from the lexicon of Deleuze and Guattari) on which independent modes of radiation, emanation, and resonance expand musical materials through cognitive or perceptual space.

Such radiation has its more direct and literal corollary in the nature of the viola d’amore itself, not only through the obvious role of the sympathetic strings but in fact also through the modes of sound production on the instrument. In this way of thinking, the sonic results of performance are themselves already multi-planar. They arise as “aural byproducts” of a series of independent physical actions:  the motion of the bow, bow pressure, bow position, bow speed, the pressure and placement of the fingers on the fingerboard. Thus, in this work, such actions have been intentionally “deunified” such that all sonic surfaces are the result of the interaction, collision, or obfuscation of physicalactivities in “real” space whilst the musical materials themselves are similar resultants of “radiated” and distorted transcriptions.

 Sound Sample

Garth Knox, viola d’amore

Garth Knox, viola d’amore.  Gaudeamus International Music Week 2002 (jurors prize nominee), Amsterdam, Netherlands, September 2002.   

Garth Knox, viola d’amore.  University at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York, April 2002.   

Garth Knox, viola d’amore.  Bludenzer Tage Zeitgemäßer Musik, November 2000.