March 26, 2016 - workbook
After making the first two versions of #[unassigned] – #180700 (repeated as #091200) for Suono Mobile and #051000 for Apartment House – I began working on new versions that were requested for early 2001. The first of these was a solo piece for violinist Darragh Morgan. The previous two versions had been for small ensemble and duo with electronics, so a solo piece was a first opportunity to trial the system in a more exposed way. I had been exploring extended techniques as a basis for the material for the first time while working on this piece. Initially I made notes based on ways of playing I knew about, either from watching other players or from scores. I made a few notes to document possible ideas in my notebook in November 2000, and some of these ideas ended up in the first violin modules I made.
Shortly afterwards I met up with Darragh in Dulwich and we spent a morning working through a range of possibilities for sounds that I might use. I made recordings and documented the useful material in my notebook, working through some of these in more detail shortly afterwards. The list is a fairly standard repertoire of noise sounds, harmonics, and other assorted adaptations, but there’s a note which asks ‘how quiet … what happens to each sound at lowest dynamic’. I seem to have been thinking here about the way low energy movement and quiet playing affects the sound, specifically with regards to its stability. Then a month later in a note dated 16.12.00 I made a summary of the ‘Good sounds for piece’ after listening back to the recordings made with Darragh.
Most of these sounds became fairly common as material types for much of the whole #[unassigned] series. Sometimes isolated experiences like this generate many ideas and possibilities, although that’s perhaps more inevitable in a modular structure where things are reused. So for example the first note makes reference to ‘v. high stopping by bridge’, and there are many string modules that use this kind of high, noise/pitch glissandi. A little bit further down the page there’s a note about bowing on the scroll ‘with bic’. This is a reference to using the lid of a bic pen, something that I’d begun to quantify quite carefully the previous month. This is also my first use of found objects as instruments. I developed some playing techniques that allow the pitch to be controlled. Bic lids are naturally unstable when blown, and they overblow very easily – this is another early example of working with sounds that are prone to cracking. The notes show the range attainable from the lid, and I remember practising scales to improve the accuracy of the pitching (essentially it’s a careful movement of the lips linked to normal and overblown pitches).
The piece itself was constructed in a similar way to #051000. Each of the modules made from the initial sketches is placed within a time bracket. I can’t remember how these were determined in this piece as there’s no diagram or explanation of the process (but it might be in a box in my garage). I’m sure I did draw this in some way in order to visualise it, but there’s not a clear grid in my notebook until #021101 written later in the year. There is some silence though, and the sounds are relatively sparse. Darragh played the piece in Dublin on 28 January. I think by this point the soundworld of #[unassigned] was beginning to be established, although it is much more gestural and event based than the later versions which tend towards drones.