009VIRU, 11'20, 2020, stereo
The first response to a pandemic is fear.
This virus infects you, takes control of your cells, propagates, spreads, and ultimately eats you alive. Your consciousness fades and fights through fever and your choked and faltering breaths.
It isn't personal, you see, you are simply a host.
My mother in law had strong opinions, one of which was that she was never afraid of anything that was smaller than her. She would use this assertion to taunt people who feared spiders or rodents, and lived in terror of mosquitoes and other biting insects. I do fear things that are smaller than me: fungal infections, bacteria, viruses. After all, germs spread by mosquitoes have killed far, far more people than people have.
Virus has 13 sections plus a short outro, each section lasts about 50 seconds.
Virus is not tonal; it sustains the same pitch throughout like a drone but in conflict with the quarter-tone shifts. The idea is to evoke the action and effect of a viral infection. As the immune system responds to and fights the virus, consciousness fades and floats through a queasy blur of sickness. Survival is paramount as you fight death.
As of April 2020, this was the ugliest music that I had made in many years. There is nothing uplifting here. I only hoped to see the other side of the pandemic, God willing.
011BNCE, 14'47, 2020, stereo
Disclaimer: No stringed instruments were harmed in the composition of this music.
The Covid-19 pandemic made the city and its airport quiet, so it was an appropriate time to capture quiet sounds at home.
I bounced the strings of three guitars and one baglama against a bookshelf. Three sets of microphones simultaneously captured the sounds of the bouncing strings. I edited the source recordings into motifs - mostly as wave-shaped envelopes - by layering the recordings, and then processed these motifs through effects.
The structure is in three movements introduced, separated, and concluded by four "ludes" - a prelude, two interludes, and a postlude - made up of waves of bounces. The movements express themes in mono and stereo variations in fugal exploration. Movements 1 and 2 follow similar layerings of textures; Movement 3 starts with a raw guitar phrase which it repeats with varying textures.
This composition has no accompanying narrative.
010MLLO, 8'25, 2020, stereo
Time to take a deep breath and lie on the floor.
014MASK, 14'11, 2022, stereo
Armour is a concerto between solo guitar and layered guitars, organs, and effects. The alternating textures reflect the struggle to reconcile fear and danger with openness and safety.
Armour started as a finger-picked chord sequence – long, repetitive, and watery – it was acoustic and folky but in 5/8 time.
In the mid-1980s, I worked with a friend – Karen Melady – to explore whether we could make a song out of this chord sequence. The title and lyrics explored the masks, shields, and armour that we don to protect ourselves from other people. In contrast, we need to remove those same masks, shields, and armour to gain intimacy. To learn and grow, we must risk and feel.
We never finished the song and left it behind after exploratory rehearsals.
At various times, I recorded the chord sequence but remained bound to the original structure. In this manner, Armour hibernated for several decades.
During the first months of the Covid-19 pandemic, the city and its airport were quiet enough that I could record acoustic guitars at home.
I rethought Armour as a series of motifs that I isolated and reassembled into fugal variations of the original chord structure with rhythmic, timbral, and harmonic layering.
Thematically, Armour became a tone-poem for the pandemic years; a concerto of instruments against textured, processed layers.
Of course, all of this narrative and interpretation is mine. The great beauty of instrumental music is that no words direct your attention, and you can make your own interpretations.
Armour is constructed in sonata form with a prelude and 3 fugues as follows: