Since returning from Melbourne I’ve been more or less immersed in my new solo flute piece for Hannah, warped passages. It’s coming along surprisingly quickly, and this may be because it has the clearest structural logic that I’ve yet come up with. A full draft will be done within 2 weeks and then there’ll be some time for some testing things out with Hannah and her feedback, before the ‘final’ version takes shape on paper.
I’ll try to outline the basic structure of the work and how I’m writing it in my next post, but first a thought on the title.
After deliberating for quite a while about the title for this piece, I have decided (at least for now) to call it warped passages, after the very enjoyable book by theoretical physicist Lisa Randall (who coincidentally wrote the libretto for Hector Parra’s Hypermusic Prologue). Naturally I’m not attempting any direct translation of the science (which I know only as a lay person), but instead taking a metaphor or two from it. Really there are two essential intended meanings behind the title:
- The warped nature of the passages through the entangled dimensions (the ‘characteristically interdependent’ parameters that the flute, in its particular use in this piece, installs). Warped because the space isn’t ‘flat’ but ‘curved’ or ‘curled’ in different ways, either temporally in the sense that each section of the work is shaped by a specific time-structure that is often tendentially accelerating or decelerating (which is kind of like the ‘curved’ space theorised by general relativity), or in the sense that certain parameters kind of ‘curl’ around other parameters like in many extradimensional theories. (It is also, more mundanely, but perhaps just as legitimately, a basic description of the piece: the solo will comprise a series of ‘warped’ (or ‘wonky-sounding’) musical ‘passages’).
- The other metaphor which I really like, and which is a little more abstract has to do with the warped passage that the imagination has to take when trying to reincorporate, into the four-dimensional world of our experience, higher dimensional geometry, which can be mathematically determined. For example the drawing of tesseracts (4-dimensional ‘hypercubes’), which Lisa Randall explains as though a 4-dimensional (5-dimensional including time) cube passed through a 3-dimensional space and we tracked the changing view we had of it across the time it took to pass through (much as, if a 3D sphere passed through a 2D page, you would see over time a growing and shrinking circle). This has two main resonances for me:
- The warped passage from an extra-dimensional instance of the work to a lower-dimensional instance: e.g. from the multi-dimensional object of the instrument, to a lower dimensional representation of a work in its score (which seizes upon and structures a number of parameters, but leaves a whole number of others as indeterminate); or from the multi-dimensional structure as represented in the score, to a kind of synthetic expressive imagination in the mind of the performer; or from the extra-dimensional performance itself to the limited cognitive filter applied by the listener in attempting to grasp the work.
- On an ‘extramusical’ level, which relates to the work less explicitly, but only through a kind of structural (and spiritual?) affinity, there’s the idea of complete equality and freedom (the ‘Idea of Communism’ as Badiou would call it), an idea easy to imagine in abstraction, but incredibly difficult to grapple with and integrate into the concrete world that we know. Thus the warped passages the human subject (collective or individual) must take to construct a model, in the real world, that approximates, as close as possible with the dimensions and ranges we have available, this ‘communist’ ideal.
Well, I hope some of that comes across in the work itself.