On the Transient Nature of Magic

On the Transient Nature of Magic

for Bass Clarinet, Bassoon, Piano and Electronics

Score, Parts and Electronics available from Voice House Publishing

Program Notes:

“On the Transient Nature of Magic”, (2004) commissioned by Trio Neos, concerns power and hidden knowledge. Specifically it is inspired by the ability attributed to the poison of certain Amazonian frogs to draw the initiate into the spirit world of the other jungle creatures. In this work the jungle creatures speak the same language as the musical instruments and vice versa. The idea of Magic represents power to know and change events resulting from hidden knowledge. The hidden knowledge here comprises the reinterpretation and recontextualization of familiar sounds into an underworld. Structurally the work explores the continuous translation of thoughts back and forth between conscious and unconscious. We are mostly unaware of this, except at those rare moments on the cusp of sleep where we find ourselves reflecting, via words, on the past or future one moment, and the next moment have crossed over into the equivalent dreamworld of pictures. This pictorial equivalent, though identical in essence to the upper thought level of speech, is never literal. It is nothing at all like the contents of the words that it mirrors: the flickering gray words above connect to a writhing orgy of colors and creatures below.


Joseph Waters is Associate Professor of Music Composition and Director of Electro-Acoustic and Media Composition at San Diego State University. He studied composition at Yale University, the Universities of Oregon and Minnesota, and Stockholms Musikpedagogiska Institut. His primary teachers were Jacob Druckman, Bernard Rands, Roger Reynolds, Dominick Argento, and Martin Bresnick. He 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 which entangle and bind the music of Europe and Africa. Much of his work involves interactions between electronic and acoustic instruments. He has been involved in inter-disciplinary and collaborative works since the early 1980’s. His works are performed widely, both in the U.S.A. and abroad. He has received numerous awards in composition, including National Endowment for the Arts/Rockefeller Foundation, Regional Arts and Culture Council (OR) and Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grants. www.josephwaters.com