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BRIEF REGARDS

FOR SOMETIMES

2 Violins, Viola, Cello

21 min.

2006

(excerpt)

Brief regards for sometimes is a set of five short pieces from 2006, all using fragmented transcriptions of sound recordings from the 1890's. The titles are taken from a well-known Thomas Edison quote, spread throughout the five movements…

“Seeming to do is not doing.”

Why Edison? The recordings were drawn from a collection of home wax cylinders made using Edison’s cylinder phonograph. Using an attachment often sold for home use, blank wax cylinder were engraved with 2-3 minutes of sound in the form of tightly wound grooves. When a new recording was needed, the cylinder was simply smoothed down again, leaving faint traces of sound from previous recordings.

Each of the five “brief regards” began as a transcription of a wax cylinder from either the late 19th or early 20th century, which was then used as compositional material to be repeated, re-arranged, and elaborated. The first movement uses transcriptions from a distorted recording of "Professor MacLellan of Berkeley" playing an unknown fiddle tune. The second is from a collage of several marches recorded off in the distance at a New England country fair. The third is a quiet chorale sung by an old folks’ home. The fourth is an anonymous rendition of the second movement from Ravel’s String Quartet in F Minor. And the last was a beguiling recording of a cylinder whose only sound, contained within the two minutes of pops and hisses caused by the recording’s rough wax surface, was a brief clock chime as it struck 11 o’clock.

© 2020 AARON HELGESON, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED