Melodies for Miles is dedicated to my old college roommate, the violinist, violist, and author Miles Hoffman, who introduced me to Jascha Heifetz, Zino Francescatti, and the tradition of Western classical violin more generally. Indirectly, Mike also introduced me to the existence of the Afrodiasporic classical composer. One day in 1970, he mentioned that he was performing an unusual work with the Yale Symphony that I might like hearing. The piece, Mestizo II, was an ebullient infusion of Albert Ayler-like free improvisation into the classical instrumentarium—a creolizing deformation of mastery. I was first completely captivated, and then astonished to see a young African- American take the stage to accept audience plaudits. I don’t think I had seen or even heard of a black composer before, and I decided that I just had to meet him. That was Alvin Singleton, now one of America’s most distinguished composers; we’ve been friends ever since. The musical material in Melodies for Miles isn’t depictive of that era in our lives. Rather, each and every time the work is performed, its aim is to reconnect the three of us in the real time of listening.
Jessie Cox Black as a Hack for Cyborgification (2020)
What does it mean to train a neural network? What does it mean to hack a system that is not meant for you? This piece is a neural network. We could hear the music as it is being trained, or as it is generating an output. What then are the parameters we are training and outputting when we listen and perform this work? I hope to have every individual ask themselves who we’re making this world for, who can be someone, who can breathe in these spaces!
In this piece, we travel the ‘spaceways’. Each individual moves from one planet to another in different ways and speeds. Telecommunicating across them we can hear a music emerge. Neural networks train through reading so much data, coming from all over the cosmos. . . . On the one hand, this rids the spaces of their meaning; on the other, this allows for portals. Portal sound coming from small devices on stage moves you faster than the speed of light into another space. But what does this do to spaces and yourselves? Scenes of free movement and abduction are hidden beneath this network, this world—hidden, yet it has effects.
Its effects move beyond itself, its effects are before it. In neural networks cause and effect are not linear, as it is effects that start causes. . . .
Every time you hear a bell something is changed. A new space appears through the reworkings instantiated by the bell. New possibilities, but they move us out of this world. This network cannot hold, cannot even hear what happens after the bells. Alter-destiny is what we hear outwards out from sound—it’s music.
Nicole Mitchell Cult of Electromagnetic Connectivity (2021)
In a dimension humans cannot perceive, the outpouring of electromagnetic radiation from digital technology excites invisible creatures into a frenzied dance as they begin to redesign our physical reality. For better or worse?
George Lewis Thistledown (2012)
Written for and premiered by Ensemble Either/Or in 2012, the title of the work is drawn from Greg Bear’s novel Eon (1985), in which a team sent to investigate the sudden appearance of an enormous asteroid in Earth’s skies discovers that the asteroid is in fact a human-built starship from their own future, which has now overlapped with their present. Named “Thistledown” by its builders, the asteroid contains various chambers, including a highly evolved city, but the seventh chamber, a human technological construct called “The Way,” appears to stretch beyond the dimensions of the asteroid, leading to parallel universes that render irrelevant the notion of a single, final destination for the starship’s journey. Analogously, my piece could be said to present a number of chambers that listeners may visit and inhabit. Each chamber possesses its own character, while overlapping temporally with others to present a rough and smearing future at ironic odds with the fragility implied by the work’s title, and continually deferring all teleological reckoning.
Wadada Leo Smith Delta Blues (1999)
George Lewis Creative Construction Set™ (2015)
Created for the Splitter-Orchester of Berlin, an ‘un-conducted’, leaderless ensemble of twenty-four musicians, Creative Construction Set™ (CCS™) is a mobile, situational-form, open-instrumentation work for an ensemble of eight or more musical performers who use a set of instruction cards to create and explore sonic environments. CCS™ enacts a sonic counter public in which musical decisions are produced via social relations, and discontinuity, support, and struggle become audible pathways to larger lessons for societies seeking to remain open to change, but also to justice. The title of the work pays homage to the Creative Construction Company, part of the experimental African American composer-performer collective, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.