TRANSCRIPTIONS ON LISTENING TO TIME (2010)
1-1-2-0, 1-0-1-0, 2-2-2-1, PNO/CEL, PERC
COMMISSIONED BY: PALIMPSEST
PREMIERE: 2010-11-17 (LA JOLLA, CA)
In 2003, while working as a music librarian, I encountered several field recordings of massive European clock chimes and mechanical orchestras from the early twentieth century, published under the title ‘Musica Mechanica’. These recordings are peculiar in that they attempt to preserve not only the musical renditions of these automata, but the sounds of the machines themselves. Each track begins with the whirs and chirps of the machine as it starts up, and ends with the thumps and buzzes of its winding down. The music exists in between these moments, emanating from somewhere within an enormous mechanical chamber that hums and vibrates sympathetically along with the melodic fragments.
Transcriptions on listening to time began life as orchestral transcriptions of several of the recordings included in Musica Mechanica, the aim of which was to capture the dual nature of time (as both the measurement of our passing internal experience and as a marker of broader historical moments). Originally intended simply as a set of stand-alone miniatures, the music itself became a kind of clockwork. Sections of the work are repeated ad libitum, each time with certain material omitted by the conductor, spinning out into an infinite combination of musical moments that potentially approach the horizon of eternity.