1. The Discofication of the Mongols
for violin and CPU (2009) 35:17
Benjamin Bowman, violin
2. S'Wonderful (that the Man I Love Watches Over Me)
for flute and CPU (2010) 26:57
Douglas Stewart, flute
MC Maguire: CPU, composer, producer, engineer
The Discofication of the Mongols, for Violin and CPU, was originally commissioned in 1995 (B.C. Cultural Fund), by the choreographer, Lee Su-Feh. The piece is based on eight choreographic gestures, each with its own length, and sensibility. These gestures became an eight chord/bass repeating passacaglia progression. Meanwhile, the melodic/motivic material is derived from an ancient Chinese melody, which constantly reemerges as a kind of unifying leitmotiv (also as a cantus firmus in the jazz duo). The first movement length is one passacaglia statement and is 64m. (intro), the 2nd movement is shrunk to a x2 pass./32m. (intro dev.), the third is a x3 pass./16m.(theme) , the fourth is a x4 pass./8m (theme with eighth note variation) , the fifth is a x5 pass./4m. (glissando dev.) , the sixth is a x6 pass./2m.(motivic dev.), and the seventh is x7 pass./1m.(uber stretto). Then, the piece unfolds Bergian-like, backwards, only the passacaglia gradually turns into repeated cells of the pitch order, expanding and contracting. At the end of each backward, reoccurring region, the piece breaks into a disco beat with a truncated ‘row' for material (while simultaneously mashing the four greatest disco tunes). The final 64m. are the intro again, only here the Chinese theme plays overtop.
The piece’s title concerns the loss of all indigenous culture to the monolith of western pop music. A recurring image is one of a lonely herdsman in Mongolia listening to Tupac on his iPod. Within a very short period of 10 years, the 3 minute, digitized file has laid waste all music, including our own (especially art music and the recording industry). The ever-approaching climax has an accumulative size, density, overlapping submixes, and pop references, until it crushes everything under its own weight (secretly inspired by the design of Stockhausen’s Gruppen and Boulez’s Tombeau).
S’Wonderful‘(that the man I love watches over me), for Flute and CPU, was written in memory of my mother, D. Ruth Brazier (commissioned by the Toronto Arts Council and Mr. and Mrs. John Hodgins). It is based on three Gershwin songs that were some of the many my parents played as a half awake, half dreaming child. Only later, did I become familiar with the film/ Broadway tradition, and its many stars and technical geniuses. The title is derived from the melding of ‘S’Wonderful’, ‘the man I love’ and ‘Someone to watch over me’, vaguely imitating the current trend of ‘mashing’ samples of songs together. But it also echoes the medieval technique of the quodlibet: the integration of popular melodies into a piece as the theme, as the countersubject, or by just using the melodies' harmony. The structure combines the mentioned quodlibet, with the memory of those multi-tempo dance sequences of MGM musicals (only here it’s more Busby Berkeley layered on top of an Ecstasy soaked rave). These two formal approaches (ancient and new) are merged together by an overall tempo/harmonic plan. Thus, tempo 90 equals the key of G3, then the sampled fifth above is 2/3 faster and the sampled fifth below is 3/2 slower. The harmonic/tempo plan ping-pong through the circle of fifths to the extremes of quarter =10 (Key of G0) and 720 (G6). The musical challenge is to create seamless transitions in these modulations, to create the seamless/weightless space between the music of duple and triple — the ‘in between’ world, the ‘Tristan’ world between sleep, peace, the spirit, the eternal, death and awake, desire, flesh, the temporal, alive. The sampled movie dialogues are from 1930’s gangster movies and romantic musicals, which also articulate a lot of the harmonic/tempo modulations. In the quotes are a natural progression from two lovers’ innocent infatuation, picket fence hopes, alcohol-drenched domestic quarrels to ranting gangster megalomania (eternal to temporal). Other sampled material includes lots of tap dancing, many ‘standard’ singers of the last 70 years, and various big band excerpts. The final group of samples used is late, 19th C. chromatic orchestral excerpts (mit Tristan) triggered by the main chromatic moments in the songs.
Artwork: Istvan Kantor
Design: MC Maguire, Philip Blackburn
Mixed @ HarostreetMusic.com, Toronto, May 2011
Mastered @ Rare Form Mastering, Minneapolis
innova is supported by an endowment from the McKnight Foundation
Chris Campbell, operations manager
Philip Blackburn, director