Michael Edwards

their faces on fire

Programme Note

their faces on fire is a flexible, musician-tweaked algorithmic composition for baritone saxophone and computer. The objective of the approach is the algorithmic specification of the global structure, parameters, tendencies, data, and data processing techniques for a composition, with the configuration of the open parameter space made by the musician from a series of limited choices. This leads to different versions of the piece---some easier than others perhaps---but with an identifiable character common to all. For instance, the saxophone part will always consist of a three-in-one contrapuntal texture created by leaps between three different registers: low, "harmonic", and high (altissimo), but the order of these can be chosen by the musician.

The title comes from Samuel Beckett's First Love (1945):

"Wherever nauseated time has dropped a nice fat turd you will find our patriots, sniffing it up on all fours, their faces on fire."

One thing I love about this and similar works---especially the audience's various reactions to such passages when they're performed---is the jarring juxtaposition of such scatological imagery against the more palatable diversions within. In other words, such sentences create a spicy shock that can awaken you from the more uniform flow of prose surrounding them. Musical parallels to this have been an underlying concern of mine for years; moreover, the specific import of this quotation is, in my opinion, always worth highlighting.