things whole and not whole (2011)[variable: large ensemble, at least 30 players / variable duration]
things whole and not whole (2011) takes its title from the tenth fragment of Heraclitus, which states ‘Things grasped together: things whole and not whole, what is drawn together and what is drawn asunder, the harmonious and the discordant. The one is made up of all things, and all things issue from the one.’ The starting point for the piece was the analysis of flocking behaviour in birds made by Craig Reynolds, in which he made computer-graphic simulations of flocking ‘boids’. Their movement was governed by three simple rules: a clumping force which keeps the flock together, a separation force which keeps them apart, and an ability to match velocity. The individual boids follow these rules, and the flock movement emerges from their interaction. In things whole and not whole, the interaction of the players is governed by rule-based cueing: players make sounds in response to those made by other players, choosing different reference players for each new sound. They also have some autonomy in the selection of sound-producing materials. From the perspective of the birds or players, the immediate world is in flux, but seen from the outside the whole is more readily apparent. things whole and not whole develops my interest in group behaviour as an organising principle, and in the use of collaborative approaches to score-making. things whole and not whole was commissioned by Basel Sinfonietta with the support of the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation.
Live performance by Basel Sinfonietta in Huddersfield Town Hall at hcmf on 20 November 2011.
Here’s an extract from the rehearsal with Basel Sinfonietta in Martinskirche, Basel, the day before the first performance. You can see the way the players respond to each other’s cues, and the range of sound selections they made. They were absolutely wonderful to work with, and really explored the possibilities for making sound within the piece’s framework. Thanks to Angharad Davies for filming this.
The Huddersfield performance can be heard on BBC iPlayer for the next couple of days (UK only I think). The programme also has the pieces by Jürg Frey, Christian Wolff and Michael Parsons, as well as some other bits from hcmf. I have a short chat with Robert Worby before the excerpt that they play, and then there’s some discussion afterwards. Not a great radio piece given the visual aspect of the performer interaction, but you’ll get a sense of it. Let me know what you think….I could do with some comments below. The programme can be heard at the iPlayer website.
Yesterday Swiss radio station DRS broadcast the Basel performance on their Neue Musik im Konzert programme. I couldn’t find a link to hear it online though. More information on the DRS page.
An excerpt from my piece for Basel Sinfonietta was broadcast on the Swiss TV programme Was Lauft on 9 November. They filmed bits of the second half of the concert, which included my piece and Christian Wolff’s Spring Two. The programme also had a feature on Mike and the Mechanics as part of an 80s revival tour, and he sat behind me on the plane home as it turned out. The performance will also be broadcast on DRS2 on 28 December, with the Huddersfield performance going out on BBC Radio 3 as part of Hear and Now on Christmas Eve. Given its late start, it’s entirely possible that this might usher in Christmas for some people. What a worrying thought.
I’ve been working with Basel Sinfonietta and conductor Manuel Nawri over the past few weeks as they prepared for the first performances of the orchestra piece I made for them, things whole and not whole. The piece uses rules pertaining to bird flocking, building on research by Craig Reynolds in the 1980s. The players set up chains of interdependent cues, and have to source all the sounds themselves, based on specific criteria. The rest of the programme included new pieces by Tim Parkinson, Michael Parsons, Jürg Frey, and Christian Wolff. Here are some pictures of the rehearsal in Basel: