Michael Edwards

who says this, saying it's me?

Programme Note

"Where would I go, if I could go, who would I be, if I could be, what would I say, if I had a voice, who says this, saying it's me?"
Samuel Beckett, opening of Texts for Nothing 4

Composers' concentration on the musical text and the general perception of composers as exclusive musical visionaries who set down notes which performers need only play in the right order and with the required precision in order to succeed, greatly obscures the role of the performer and all s/he brings to a piece of composed music. We can see this not just in terms of conscious interpretation, but centuries of mostly undocumented and implied performance practice; all the intricate details which need to be mastered to bring music to life, but which are not to be found on the page. Anyone who has heard a machine performance of a well-known piece immediately hears and understands this.

In more and more of my recent works I treat the score not as an ideal which must be achieved but as a system to strive against which leads to expressive yet often out-of-control situations. All the usual notational details are present and most are quite simple (this is not the New Complexity); there is nothing aleatoric or random about the score, but one or two of the performance parameters will be extreme. In this piece, the speed at which musical material is to be presented is such that the performer is forced to skim, to improvise even, to react to the score rather than simply (!) play it. The intention is for an unusual energy and tension to arise, along with unimaginable and perhaps unnotatable instrumental sounds.

The saxophone as we know it is slowly revealed through various more unusual views of the instrument, as a technological extension of the human vocal apparatus, and as a resonating tube. Each of the six sections proceed via the same but ever-shortening algorithm: a two-in-one-voice hocket-like exchange of foreground and background notes, most often in different registers. Both saxophone and computer play through the same basic material but this is obscured in the former by a superimposed note-rejection procedure and in the latter by intentionally programmed rhythmic sloppiness. The obscuring reduces over the course of the piece until in the final section the computer and saxophone are locked in a uni-rhythmic and euphoric mêlée of sharply accented, ever-changing metrical assaults. Whose music you are hearing though--mine or the performer's--is open to question.