NEW WRITINGS OF SOUND AND MUSIC// Nate Trier// The Cycles that Surround Us


* Name: Nate Trier

* Website:

* Title of work: The Cycles that Surround Us

* Instrumentation and methods of interpretation: Open instrumentation, for the largest group of people you can get together at once.

Extrait de la partition :




1. How would you describe this form of writing sound and / or music?

This is part of a series of works that I unofficially refer to as « flowchart jazz.” Flowchart Jazz pieces prompt improvising musicians to choose a pathway through musical options.  In the bird’s-eye view of these pieces, the composer determines broadly « when » but not « what; » the outline of the piece but not the content.  As we zoom in and get look at the piece at ground level, the performer determines “what,” but has less control over “when:” they must follow the outline that the composer set forth, but they may determine the performance content. The overall pieces is the result of musical « emergence: » individual players make individual choices that, together, create a work that is is the sum of their collective efforts and larger than any one player.

This particular piece, The Cycles that Surround Us, is a large-scale, four-movement prose and graphic score work for indeterminate, improvising orchestra.  It is a work that draws on Gamelan’s colotomic (cyclical) approach to music; Terry Riley’s use of cells in In C; and the use of graphic and prose as scores as fuel for material and interpretation found in experimental improvised music and some avante garde classical works.

2. How do you think your proposal can be Interpreted?

On the surface level, the performance seems easy: follow the arrows and do what the words tell you.  But a proper reading challenges the performer (and the performer’s ego) to find a space in and support a large mass of people and sounds.  Even more challenging is that sometimes finding your space means sublimating your ego and becoming part of the background.  You will always be part of the ensemble’s sounds, you will rarely be a soloist.  You are always part of the team, rarely the star athlete.  

The performers must constantly be alert and ready for a context in which to place their next sound: they may have a fully-formed concept and be ready to play it but then hear a competing/complementing sound across the room – how do they then adjust their playing on a moment’s notice?

Additionally, the performer must choose their role in creating the structure of each movement.  For example, she may barrel through the movement, introducing all the themes and variations, and then waiting silently until this movement is finished and until the next movement begins.  Or, she may slowly take her time, continuing to make her way through the movement after others have finished and fallen silent, and finding herself performing in a solo cadenza.

3.  What meanings or additional level brings this particular form of writing performance and / or interpretation of the work?

  • The prose and graphic descriptions make the performance a communal expression of individual personalities in a collective sense, not an expression of the composer’s will and taste.  Instead, the composer determines the structure of the piece on the largest scale (tonal, not tonal, pulsed, non-pulsed) and creates the general order in which events will play out.  The composer determines what themes or rhythmic/textural/contour-based connections will be made, but not when.

  • Motivic development: Performers craft their own themes and motives by following the prose and graphic instructions. All later performers of those instructions will later subsequently create variations on that motive.  (For example, one graphic “cell” indicates that the performer is to play a four-note ascending figure.  Later performers of that cell will follow the same general contour but probably not the exact same tones).  Furthermore, the conceit of “cycles” provides unity – performers may loop through an entire page or a sub-loop.  Each iteration will be similar to, but never the same as, the first.

  • Visual: The initial visual impact of the score makes it clear to performers that they are operating under a new paradigm with new rules.  

  • Pulse: Performers are instructed to add and remove beats, but the definition of a beat is entirely subjective.  One performer may feel the pulse as duple time, another performer may feel it as compound time, and another may feel it to be an « irregular » time signature.  One performer’s quarter-note pulse may be another’s eighth-note pulse.  Performers create overlapping ostinatos of any length – the “pulsed” movement has steady beats, but no time signature.

01. juillet 2013 par Mathevet Frédéric
Catégories: New writings of sound and music | Tags: , , , | Commentaires fermés sur NEW WRITINGS OF SOUND AND MUSIC// Nate Trier// The Cycles that Surround Us