work: third watch (7)

Third Watch (7)
The idea behind this piece was to use a text that was devoid of emotional or narrative charge as the source for its composition. The concept developed from an enduring interest in associating music with words non-illustratively in an attempt to bring out a hidden reality through a process of abstraction: that of the meaning engendered by the sign (or, in the vernacular of semiology, the ‘signified’) from its material aspect (the ‘signifier’). Fueling that interest is a desire to make audible a quiescent beauty unadulterated by meaning that may lie somewhere within the very materiality of the text. The title of the piece is the first line of a race card that I picked at random from the horse-racing column of a newspaper. The choice of such a material was motivated by two main factors: first, I wanted to draw on a text that could be approached without being influenced by such elements as its literary significance, expressiveness or artistic merit; second, I saw a compelling attraction in the mysterious quality of those enigmatic lists of names and numbers that, alienated from their context, tend to acquire a quasi-poetical character. The position of the text in relation to the composition is one of latency – it can be likened to the points of the photographic emulsion which will produce the visible image after chemical development. And although the raw musical material was generated using matrices of correspondence between alphabetical characters and pitch, there is nothing mechanical or algorithmic about Third Watch (7): the compositional process per se was guided by a subjective appreciation of certain features of the text perceived as pregnant with its musical realisation.

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commissioned by:
first performance:

Fl, BbCl, Pno, Perc* , Vln, Vc.
* (Glock, Mar.)
7′ 15″

Phoenix Theatre, Exeter (UK)
perf. Kokoro
cond. MarK Forkgen