I Have to See You

Since the 1980s I’ve been periodically making pieces for a varied range of ensembles and instrumentation responding to the marvelous secular songs of Guillaume de Machaut. I call the project Machaut in the Machine Age, and I Have to See You is the eighth in the series. I Have to See You takes as its starting point Machaut’s Ballade #33: Ne qu’on porroit les estoiles nombrer. The line that ends all three verses is “Le grant desir que j’ay de vous veoir”, which translates to something like: “the great desire I have of seeing you,” a great desire that many of us experienced in a particularly striking way during the pandemic. Machaut knows the feeling since he spent the year 1349 in confinement due to the Black Death.

TO THE PERFORMERS

There should be a drone based on C and G; I used my own voice to make one version of the piece, singing C2 G2 C3 G3 (with C3 = middle C), but you could use something else. The yellow marks in the score indicate places where the drone should re-articulate.

Nothing in the piece should be in strict rhythmic unison: the two melodic lines can be ahead of or behind the drone attacks, and the feeling should be of everyone trying really hard to be together in a world with no guideposts. Even though the score gives you a rhythmic transcription of the medieval notation, you should basically run completely roughshod over that. I have marked notes that should be extended in green. You both want to do those extensions, but you will not succeed at being authentically in rhythmic unison and that’s how it needs to be.

I strongly recommend that you listen to my recording of the piece with Lukas Papenfusscline. I invite you to do lots of things differently, but that recording will give you a sense of the intensity I am looking for.

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I Have to See You is part of my ongoing project A Book of Days. You can watch and listen to the video Lukas and I made during lockdown by visiting 17 April.

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For a performing materials, please click the buy button below. The suggested price is $12, but you can choose your own price based on your situation, with my thanks for supporting this low-key way of publishing:

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Hard4the$

Hard4the$ is a piece for solo flute and pre-recorded track that explores the current gender and racial pay gap in the United States, a pay gap that became particularly glaring in COVID days, because so many black and/or female workers have been both essential and underpaid.

The piece is a set of four abstractions of the 1983 classic Donna Summer/Michael Omartian tune “She Works Hard for the Money” played simultaneously. Each layer has been given the name of a universally known public figure who represents the race and gender of that layer: Michelle Obama, John Lewis, Hillary Clinton, and Brett Kavanaugh.

Michelle’s variation is the only one that is the full length of the four minute piece: the others are shorter (and faster in tempo) in proportion to how much more quickly people of that gender and race are statistically likely to earn the same amount of money. Thus, Brett’s variation is only 2:28.

On the other hand, Brett’s multi-layer variation is played fortissimo on piccolo while Michelle’s is played pianissimo on alto flute, so Michelle is only actually heard when Brett and the others successively finish playing. (Hillary is mezzo forte, and John is mezzo piano.)

It is suggested that the player take on a different role each time he/she/they play the piece. Depending on the role the live player chooses to take, the piece will be a very different experience for both player and listeners.

Hard4the$ is 31 March in my ongoing project A Book of Days, because 31 March was Equal Pay Day 2020 in the United States; that is, how far into the year women had to work to earn what men earned in the previous year. In 2022, Equal Pay Day has moved up to March 15th, seemingly good news that is complicated by the fact that women of color actually lost pay compared to their white male counterparts.

Statistically, the Bretts of America are doing just fine, while the Michelles continue to clean up all our messes. Something is wrong with this picture.

Hard4the$ was commissioned by Hal Ide for Claudia Anderson’s solo show Glass Ceilings, and premiered online at the 2021 National Flute Association convention. Many thanks to Allison Loggins-Hull, Eric Lamb, Claudia Anderson, and Tim Munro, who recorded Michelle Obama, John Lewis, Hillary Clinton, and Brett Kavanaugh (respectively) for the pre-recorded track.

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TO THE PERFORMER

In any given performance, the player can choose which role to play. Brett is piccolo; Hillary is C flute; Michelle is alto flute; John is bass flute. The pre-recorded track will function as an enlarger of your live role, but the overall balances should stay the same. So, for example, Michelle — both live and pre-recorded — will be drowned out until the very end. That’s pretty much true of John as well. Hillary will obscure John and Michelle, but Brett completely takes up all the air in the room as long as he’s around.

I suggest you practice the role you’ve chosen to take on by playing your solo part with the pre-recorded track for JUST your character first: e.g. if you’re doing Hillary live, practice with only the pre-recorded Hillary tracks until you are satisfied with your pitch, timing, and blend.

You should aim to be equal to (NOT louder than) the pre-recorded tracks of your character: the reality is even if you are softer than the pre-recorded tracks, we will hear you better because we are watching you play.

In live performance, you may want to have an in-ear monitor mix of your live character’s pre-recorded tracks and click (set to the correct tempo for your live character’s part, of course.) The total mix then can be routed to the speakers in the hall, but you won’t have to listen to the entire blend, which is kind of overwhelming if you’re not playing Brett.

Depending on what space you are playing in, you may want to add reverb to your playing: you want to match the pre-recorded track of your character: Brett has the least and shortest reverb, and Michelle has the most and longest reverb. (If you haven’t yet decided which role to play and/or you don’t want to process your sound, you should choose the role that best matches the natural sound of your concert space.)

On any given concert, you are welcome to play the piece up to four times, taking on different roles each time.

I’m not sure any individual performance of the piece is actually satisfying, which is kind of the point.

There might be a better way forward?

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For performing materials, please click the buy button below. The suggested price is $30, but you can choose your own price based on your situation, with my thanks for supporting this low-key way of publishing:

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Be Like Water

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.

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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 a demo 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:

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Who Else

I received Crispin Best’s poem from Matthew Ogle’s Pome in the early days of lockdown. I made a piece from it in May 2020.

Who Else

i tell the same stories
again and again
because who else is going to
and what are the builders making

apart from a racket
the black mould in my room makes it feel
like the wall is learning something

i tell my computer i’m not a robot
when it asks
because who else is going to

i can’t believe you thanked me
for sleeping in your bed

if a tree falls in the forest
that’s fine

• Crispin Best (2019)

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You can hear my recording of Who Else by visiting 23 March in A Book of Days.

For performing materials, click the buy button below. The suggested price is $5, but you can choose your own price based on your situation, with my thanks for supporting this low-key way of publishing:

DETAILS