Yes, I have a thousand tongues,
And nine and ninety-nine lie.
Though I strive to use the one,
It will make no melody at my will,
But is dead in my mouth.
--Stephen Crane

A Thousand Tongues (2007)  |  Missy Mazzoli (b. 1980)
for Cello, Distortion Pedal, and Pre-Recorded Electronics

Eric Moore, Cello  |  Dustin Donahue, Electronics
San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art, La Jolla
(Live, October, 2016)

Note the artful way the rain and distortion pedal both sneak in :)
- Program notes, with timings to follow along, are beneath the video -

I adore this piece. Missy recently became composer-in-residence of the Chicago Symphony, but I first came across Missy's work when I heard her fantastic piece Vespers for a New Dark Age (commissioned by and premiered at Carnegie Hall).

How did she base a piece of music on Crane's poem (above)? Masterfully well. Pay particular attention to the conversation of the cello and electronics, thinking of the electronics as a second musician. Sometimes the cello surprises the electronics, sometimes the electronics surprise the cello. But their out-of-sequence moments create a faltering feel and they never really line up - the melodies that eventually unfold aren't unfolded together. One might expect, for example, that when the vocal line emerges, the cello would back it up like a second singer, but instead it plods along with a repeated rhythm and chords.

The piece is in 7 sections and is something like a mirror image of itself.

One: the electronics part with reverb creates a gorgeous sonic landscape supported by slow harmonies of the cello. But the cello is frequently scratchy and distorted (imagine speaking with a parched mouth).
Two: the cello takes up a gorgeous melody (1:30).
Three: the cello takes up its scratchy distortion (3:00), bookending its melody with the same type of sounds as in the beginning. However, this time the pitches spiral slowly upwards from a high note. 

Four: a singer emerges from the electronics (3:30) singing the first four lines of Crane's poem.

Five: the cello is at its scratchiest (similar to to section Three) when the singer finally says "But is dead in my mouth" (4:45).
Six: the cello returns to its melody (from section Two) (5:10), but now it feels like a distant memory.
Seven: the cello returns to slow notes (like section One) (6:00), but now they are single "artificial harmonics" - relatively high, ethereal notes.

I hope you enjoy this piece as much as I do. 

PS Classical music needs more distortion pedals.

Carve Your Own SpaceGary Hunt
for Flute and Vibraphone

Jenny Hunt, Flute  |  Zachary Webb, Percussion
(Live, 2013)

Q: What is PIGS?
A: The Percussive Image Gestural System, a system for facilitating live visuals for improvisation by way of drawing gestures and (mostly) striking drums. PIGS uses algorithms and the drum kit metaphor to develop an improvisational performance structure. PIGS consists of software and various hardware interfaces. None of the hardware interfaces are terribly exotic; the focus in pigs is in how the software algorithms and percussion approach allow for improvisation of structured, fluid, live visuals.

Rocket's Red Glare (2015) improvisation/collaboration
by Curt Miller and Amy Alexander
for Clarinet and PIGS (Percussive Image Gestural System)

Curt Miller, clarinet & computer audio | Amy Alexander, visuals & silent percussion
@ IDEAS: Qualcomm Institute, San Diego, California
(Live, September 2015)


K'an, for the gong and 130 thin wood sticks (2012) was awarded at the Summer New Music Workshops in Darmstadt. K'an was created as a response to John Cage's Branches for Percussion (1976), a piece inspired by the Book of I-ching. K'an is a reinterpretation of the magical gestures of the Book. The title of the piece refers to one of the eight trigrams of the ancient Chinese text and signifies the recurrence of threat, which similarly to the attempt to describe trauma through music can be tamed when the feeling of insecurity keeps on coming back.

K'an (2012) | Wojtek Blecharz (b. 1981)
for percussion

Dustin Donahue, Percussion
Conrad Prebys Music Center Experimental Theater
(Live, March 15, 2015)

Reflections (1974) | Milton Babbitt (1916-2011)
for Piano and Synthesized Tape

Todd Moellenberg, Piano
Conrad Prebys Concert Hall

Any early collaboration by many of the ensemble members in the premiere of Gordium (2010) by Tania Lanfer (Live at UCSD)

A more recent collaboration with many of the ensemble members in the premiere of Ouruboros (2015) by Paul Hembree (Live at UCSD)