Date of composition: July 2017
Instrumentation: Trumpet in C and live electronics
Duration: 10-20 minutes
Written for and with Simon Desbruslais (trumpet).
First performed by Simon Desbruslais and Mark Slater at the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Brno, Czech Republic in October 2017. Subsequently performed as part of the British Science Festival at Hull Minster in September 2018 and at the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo in July 2018.
Taking its cue from the quiet but present piano resonances of Berio’s Sequenza X (vibrations that are set in motion by a theatrical trumpet gesture firing barbed sounds into the piano’s body), Apheresis explores resonance. Or, more accurately, several different kinds of resonance by which I mean some kind of ‘re-sounding’. The first of these is the resonant relationship between the live trumpeter, the performed electronics, and the immediate reverberant acoustic. Over the course of milliseconds, sounds reflect from surfaces in a dynamic interplay that nourishes the sense of unique performance for performer and audience alike. Second, sounds are captured, processed and returned to the auditorium in real-time. The electronics part for Apheresis is conceptualised very much as an equivalent to Berio’s sympathetically resonating piano. Third, pitch material is derived from the six-pitch collection expressed at the opening of the trumpet Sequenza, which brings a historical, analytical resonance to the music as well as a gestural one with borrowings from Berio’s palette of figures, intervallic games, and articulations. This kind of resonance can span decades (and centuries), which are traversed by the invocation of theoretical and technical relations. Fourth, resonance occurs between the collaborators who pooled their knowledge, resources, aesthetic preferences, and technical skills to create the piece. The eventual sounding of Apheresis is the combination of a constellation of multiple and simultaneous resonances.
The piece is organised into seven sections (the stated six-note cell plus a section for each constituent pitch), each of which adopts a textural logic ranging from solo/soliloquy to ensemble/chorale. The sections are as follows:
- Resonant Cell
- Two-Part Invention
- Moto Perpetuo
Performance & Electronics Requirements
The electronics part is notated on the score using a single-line stave to indicate when each cue state should be changed plus a three-line stave to represent changes in the state of faders. There are 12 cues in all, which are triggered using the arrow keys or space bar; the current cue is displayed in the MaxMSP patch. The three faders labelled ‘Upper’, ‘Middle’, and ‘Lower’ refer to real-time time-stretching processes across broad frequency bands. These faders correspond to the three-line stave, which depicts relative fader positions in terms of traditional dynamic labels to control texture and balance throughout the piece. Three further faders labelled ‘Playback’, ‘Delays’, and ‘Reharmonisation’ relate to particular sections of the piece; movement of these faders is indicated on the lower single-line stave as they relate to specific cues. Further descriptions about the function of each cue are given throughout the score.
The electronics performer should strive for a well-balanced final sound in which the boundary between live performer and processed sounds is so seamless as to be difficult to discern.