Vivaldi Fireflies

Vivaldi Fireflies
Violin and Live Electronics

Score, Part and Electronics available from Voice House Publishing

Program Note:

Vivaldi Fireflies (2006) explores the blurring of boundaries between hierarchically-nested, perceptual time scales. In other words, humans (and to various extents all animals) organize their placement in time by ordaining multiple, simultaneous, self-similar time scales at concentric levels of magnitude. (For example we organize our lives at the level of a specific minute, which is defined by its placement within a specific hour, within a specific day, within a specific week, within a specific year, within a specific decade, within a specific century, within a specific millennia etc.) Our simultaneous, intuitive knowledge of the placement of each moment upon multiple time cycles lends solidity and context to our sense of the world.

Music behaves in much the same way, on a miniature level. Most genres of contemporary folk music employ at least five hierarchical, self-similar time levels. Western classical music employs a few more.

The idea for Vilvaldi Fireflies began with a simple contemplation: Might it be possible to create a psycholgical illusion that a piece of music is perpetually speeding up, always in accelerando, without actually ever changing tempo at all. (There is an analogous illusion with pitch, in which a pitch seems to perpetually rise. But how would one accomplish this with tempo?) Tempo, without exception, manifests in simultaneous “octaves and other harmonics” (whole number multiples of the perceived pulse rate). Perpetual accelerando would, therefore, require the smooth, continuous elision of one tempo level into another. Had this happened in music previously? If not, why not? Are we hard-wired to maintain strict quantum separation of discrete time levels? This is what I set out to explore with Vivaldi Fireflies .


Joseph Waters (b. 1952) is a member of the first generation of American classical composers who grew up playing in rock bands. Throughout his career he has been intrigued by the confluence and tensions that entangle and bind the music of Europe and Africa. His interests include physiological, sub-cultural pattern seeking mechanisms and development of fractal cognitive models for understanding pattern recognition. Much of his work involves interactions between electronic and acoustic instruments. He is the founder of NWEAMO (New West Electro-Acoustic Music Organization). Each October the NWEAMO Festival travels between Mexico City, San Diego, Portland and New York City, presenting composers from around the world in concerts that unite the worlds of avant-garde classical and experimental electronica. He also performs and composes for the Waters_Bluestone_Duel, a collaboration with percussionist Joel Bluestone that explores the combination of live electronics and percussion, as well as SWARM the virtuoso interdisciplinary quartet in residence at San Diego State University. He studied composition at Yale University, the Universities of Oregon and Minnesota, and Stockholms Musikpedagogiska Institut. Primary teachers were Jacob Druckman, Bernard Rands, Roger Reynolds, Dominick Argento, and Martin Bresnick.

© 2006 Joseph Waters
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