Be Like Water is the ninth piece is a series called Machaut in the Machine Age that I’ve been working on since the 1980s responding to the music and poetry of 14th century composer/poet, Guillaume de Machaut. The piece was commissioned by duoJalal and was originally imagined for viola and hand percussion.
My piece is a response to section four of Le lai de la fonteinne, which having compared the beloved to Mary, and Mary somehow to the Trinity, is now talking about water, which being a fountain, a stream, and a source while remaining water is, like the trinity, three things in one. The descending three note motif in a three-part canon at the unison is text-painting of such simultaneous simplicity and cunning that I had to explore it in this trio between viola, percussion, and pre-recorded track, setting up the piece so that those three become one in yet another way:
There are 21 tracks (3 times 7), each of which can be assigned flexibly to either of the two live players (played acoustically or as triggered samples) or as pre-recorded tracks, so that without seeing a live performance, you can’t tell which of the three is doing what.
The piece can also easily be presented as a multiply overdubbed piece, which may be particularly appropriate during pandemic times, as was the case when Machaut wrote the Lai (during the Black Death), and when I wrote this piece (during COVID-19).
It’s all water.
Be like water.
The original version of the piece is for viola, hand percussion, and backing track, which can be a pre-recorded track, or an Ableton session.
You can visit February 16th in my ongoing project A Book of Days to hear and see the premiere live performance of the piece by Duo Jalal. You can also listen to my demo version of the piece, which might give you some ideas about how you’d like to adapt it for yourselves.
For performing materials, please click the buy button below. The suggested price is $33, but you can choose your own price based on your situation, with my thanks for supporting this low-key way of publishing:
- Instrumentation: percussion (unpitched) viola
- Ensemble Size: 2-6
- Duration: <5 minutes
- Electronics: Fixed Audio Live Processing
- Video: No
- Project(s): A Book of Days Machaut in the Machine Age
- Year: 2020