Elements

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… for live electronics (custom GUI), virtuosos percussionist (an immense collection of percussion instruments — marimba, vibraphone, glockenspiel, crotales, tam tam. sleigh bells, woodblocks, thunder sheets, imbira, plus Asian gongs & cymbals & more) and dance.


This is an evening length work, in four movements, each exploring one of the essential elements: Earth, Air, Fire, Water.

World Premeier: May 13-15 & 22-24, 2004 —with Tere Mathern Dance & Joel Bluestone, percussion. Choreography by Tere Mathern.

Earth: sounds of the earth: heavy, dense, humid: insects, horses, rain, & Shamanic trance rhythms derived from hip hop turned inside out, expanded, contracted, inverted & counterpointed.


Air: In 3 sections:
• section 1) marimba & electronics: a study of birds in flight. The marimba assumes the rhythms and gestures of wing movement, adapting to changes in wind direction, speed, turning and banking. The electronics provide complex aerial environment: blasts of wind, flocks of birds.
• section 2) vibraphone and live electronics: the small winds of whispering voices in the mind, internal and external worlds are confused and blended, hallucinogenic
• section 3) timpani, tam tam, glock, crotales: an invocation of the immensity, grandeur and terror of the constellations and the night sky
The electronics are performed live, with 204 “hits” inside of the 13 minute movement.


Fire:
 For Asian metallic instruments and electronics, a study in spaces, Buddhist timelessness. In composing Fire I was thinking of its myriad symbolic connotations: It is at once magical, ephemeral, a picture in the minds eye of the human spirit, vaporous, flickering, impulsive, unpredictable, dangerous, frightening, beautiful, & the stuff of torture and mythological eternal punishment as well as sex and passion …


Below is the poem that the voices in “Fire” are speaking, and which informs its colors and textures.
It is by William Blake, from “The Four Zoas”


Water:
 The connection of humans to the ocean, our great mother, is through our blood, which has the same salt content as the ocean and which, powered by our pumping hearts, pulses through our bodies as the moon-powered ocean breakers eternally slap the shore. When either stops it is death, for the individual or the planet. The final movement is powered by the pounding of a the human heart, recorded internally to reveal the whoosh of liquid through arteries. And when the heart beat stops, this set of four pulses which comprise the movements of Elements slips away into memory.


(Poem for “Fire”, by William Blake)
Such is the demon –
His limbs bound down mock at his chains, for over them a flame
Of circling fire unceasing plays; to feed them with life & bring
The virtues of the Eternal worlds, ten thousand thousand spirits
Of life lament around the demon, going forth and returning.
At his enormous call they flee into the heavens of heavens
And back return with wine & food, or dive into the deeps
To bring the thrilling joys of sense to quell his ceaseless rage.
His eyes, the lights of his large soul, contract or else expand:
Contracted they behold the secrets of the infinite mountains,
The veins of gold & silver & the hidden things of Vala,
Whatever grows from its pure bud or breathes a fragrant soul:
Expanded they behold the terrors of the Sun & Moon,
The Elemental Planets & the orbs of eccentric fire.
His nostrils breathe a fiery flame, his locks are like the forests
Of wild beasts; there the lion glares, the tyger & wolf howl there,
And the eagle hides her young in cliffs and precipices.
His bosom is like starry heaven expanded; all the stars
Sing round; there waves the harvest & the vintage rejoices; the springs
Flow into rivers of delight; there the spontaneous flowers
Drink, laugh & sing, the grasshopper, the Emmet and the Fly;
The golden Moth builds there a house & spreads her silken bed.
His loins inwove with silken fires are like a furnace fierce:
As the strong Bull in summer time when the bees sing round the heath
Where the herds low after the shadow & after the water spring,
The num’rous flocks cover the mountains & shine along the valley.
His knees are rocks of adament & rubie & emerald:
Spirits of strength in Palaces rejoice in golden armour
Armed with spear & shield they drink & rejoice over the slain.
Such is the demon, such his terror on the nether deep.

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