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Splinter with Ensemble neoN

May 30, 2016

I travelled to New York City in April for MATA Festival 2016. It was my first time in this city, and was happy to be heading there to work with Ensemble neoN to prepare my commissioned work, Splinter.

This work pulled together and expanded some of the ideas I had worked on in Metal Clay and Fractured Moulds, Scattered Signals, taking a modular approach to the composition within which the performers are asked to communicate and coordinate with each other in different ways.

Splinter is less improvisational. The piece centres around repetitive and recurring interval sequences, scattered and fragmented between the ensemble in different ways. Often this is achieved through cueing systems which comprise differing types of choice and relationships between the performers. These systems are instilled with an attentive focus on the actions of others, or individuals in the group, which prompt changes in the focus of listening. Interspersed throughout the piece, the hocket-like passages also drive a heightened intensity in the frenetic back-and-forth between individual performers or groups.

Ensemble neoN – joined by Ryan Muncy on bari. sax. and Pat Swoboda on electric bass – were wonderful to work with on this piece. Many of our discussions focused on how to ‘recover’ from or respond to breakdowns in communication in the game-like sections. The awkward hesitations and jolts during these moments are an important and playful aspect of the piece’s fabric. As their familiarity with the piece grew, it was great to experience the ensemble finding strategies to negotiate these moments, enjoying these aspects of the music and approaching each section with great energy and intensity.

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