Lovelyville - Some Performance and Compositional Issues

Matt Wuolle 1995

Lovelyville is a duo for alto and tenor saxophone. It explores some of the human performer's physical sounds such as breathing, hand, and foot movements as compositional material for integration with conventional pitch-rhythm structures. For example, human breathing and breath are used for their 'sound' and relation to mental and physical activity. Relaxing in order to prepare for the presentation is part of the piece. The intentional inhalen and exhalation of air at the beginning of the work is an attempt to invoke a more relaxed state in the performers, by writing this into the music. This sonic material is then integrated with 'vocal-like' statements on the saxes, played with an especially breathy timbre. Later in the piece, after a high energy, lengthy frenetic section, the sound of heavy breathing is a result of intensive physical activity. This serves as both a physical and sonic transition, which helps to serve as a natural dissipation of energy in order to transition into a quiet closing section. In the closing section, breath is again used, but now as resonant blowing sound, and its function is to accompany a melancholy melody played by the other instrument.

Additionally, in the frenetic section, the feet are used for stomping and dancing to produce rhythmically free percussive thumps, which functions as a natural bass drum or floor tom. I'm interested in two fields of activity as produced by a single performer, saxophone and foot percussion. A music stand can also be used to produce an additional contrapuntal texture of midrange and high squeeky sounds in this section. This kind of timbre seemed appropriate to me in the overall context of a section of frenetic, free jazz inspired saxophone improvisation (and incorporates the performance concepts I was exploring at the time in other contexts, as detailed in the "An Exploration Of Everyday Sound: Are We Making Music?" article.

I have been asked how one composes a transformation from quantized pitch-rhythm music to free unquantized gestural performance. Certainly, such a question cannot be answered in a generic sense, but must be addressed for the specific musical context. I attempted to set up a foreshadowing of performance noise and raw sound in various locations leading up to the frenetic section. In the introductory section, breath sound is integrated with performance and short pitch phrases, as stated above. The next section integrates extended harmonic series glisses, somewhat free rhythmic polyphonic gestures which form a quite abstract texture relative to the more concrete pitch motives of the introduction. After more conventionally thematic pitch-rhythm material, a series of phrases builds to an important pinnacle note, which is transformed into a grotesquely distorted saxophone multiphonic based around that pitch. The players then embark on brief escapades of craggy interval phrases, somewhat free in rhythm, as determined in the moment of performance, i.e., the players are given improvisational leeway concerning rhythm and phrasing, while playing my pitch constructions. After a brief section of repose, I set up a complex rhythmic organism: irregular beat motives which overlap and are somewhat repetitive and reasonably prolonged with only meager bits of linear development, such that a feeling of constrained tension evolves, and seems to demand to either break or be resolved by some other kind of lengthy process. My immediate solution was breakdown, which here, is a kind of 'bursting' effect: total abandonment of previous rhythm-pitch sensibility. This material is what I am most interested in, in fact, perhaps this section should be longer and crazier. What I want is for the physicality of the feet stomping and gestures to result in an almost running and jumping physicality, until a point of shear exhaustion is reached. Then, I want the irregular rhythmic counterpoint of heavy breathing, 2 people catching their breath for about 3 minutes, before the piece continues... However, this work isn't just about reaching a point of frenetic activity, but about the establishment of multiple forms of expression unified in one piece. Pitches and rhythms are important, as is melody, counterpoint and timbral transformation. This is not about one point or process; it is the creation of an environment where all these things are (hopefully) integrated.

If you would like to order the score or perform this work, please contact Matt directly.
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