As the highest lake in the Adirondacks, Lake Tear of the Clouds is the Hudson River’s source. This piece was inspired in large part by my experiences and observations living along this waterway—the vast wide expanse at Tappan Zee, the churning gray whitecaps of a stormy day, the vistas from the New Jersey Palisades, and an imaginary slow-motion dive from the top of the cliffs into the murky depths. Some of the sonic materials used in both the ensemble and electronics are derived from recordings of water sounds made at various points along the river. Other sound spectra are derived from sources such as bells, tam-tams, and voices. In many instances the inner structure of these sounds is retuned via a process of analysis and resynthesis. This work is an homage to a phenomenon that is both powerful and uniquely fragile.
Andile Khumalo The Broken Mirrors of Time (rev. 2021)
The Broken Mirrors of Time is a personal reflection on what it means to be African in the times when people kill others just because they carry a document that says, I am Zimbabwean, I am Zambian, I am Ethiopian. A time when an accent in speaking a particular language decides one’s fate whether her/his life is spared or taken away. What does it mean to be African in South Africa—a country with a considerable population of the Nguni people and Bantu people, whose origins are traced back to central Africa (in today’s Democratic Republic of Congo)? Their ancestors crossed the artificial boundaries that divide us today and spread their wings to explore the wonders of our African continent. Furthermore, they wandered, mixed with new cultures they encountered along the way, to be who they are today.
The composition The Broken Mirrors of Time blends different influences from the African sound landscape with surfaces that, at times, project French spectralism. However, it is rooted in Nguni people’s approach to timbre in creating meaning. We observe their use of tonal fluctuations in language to produce a different understanding of the same object (words). Their use of timbre connects and bridges the physical and spiritual spaces. The piece transforms into different spaces, revealing along the way new layers of its origins. As it sheds layers of itself, we begin to hear sound blocks fixed in one space, which seems to be in complete contrast to how the piece started, and yet the foundation is the same. In recent compositions, I have been working with creating a multifaceted idea of hybrid music. I genuinely believe that the actual definition of an African today is that of a multi-layer one.
Erin Gee Mouthpiece XI (2009)
Thoughts articulate the space. Each thought is a block, yet there is no clear demarcation between one thought and the next. Thoughts are carried on the breath and the breath is continuous. The breath is within the space. The articulation of thoughts affects the size and the shape of the space, the color of the space, and the timbre of the space.
One small push is all that is needed: the choice of how to articulate.
Sky Macklay Microvariations (2016-17)
In 1825, British conductor George Thomas Smart traveled across Europe and compared his A=423.5hz tuning fork to the tuning of every musical group he could find. Some ensembles were perfectly in tune with his tuning fork, but others, especially around Vienna, were quite a bit higher and closer to today’s standard A=440hz. Microvariations is a fast-forward and transcontinental sonic truncation and fantasy on Smart’s journey. Pieces that he probably heard, entire symphonies and sonatas of the common practice period, are distilled to their most skeletal, structural chord progressions and played at hyper speeds. Microvariations begins with material similar to that in my string quartet, Many Many Cadences—predictable tonal chord progressions recontextualized into fast cells that are constantly changing key. Microvariations situates the cadences in two different groups (‘towns’) playing a quarter tone apart from one another, at first distinct and eventually congealing and blurring.