Having had this piece performed three times and still never having heard it, I thought it was time for a decent mockup.
Tweet Piece (#2), for guitar, electronics and spoken word track.
Thank you to Andrew Donovan for his amazing voice!!
Detailed explanation of the piece below as I've just been putting together my composition protfolio...
But in short, this piece is a commentary on privacy in the modern world...
Tweet Piece (#2) was written in response to a request from Anna Murray to write a piece for guitar and tape to help her fill a concert from her newly formed Fractal group.
I had initially declined her request as I was not particularly interested in writing for guitar and tape, but when she came back to me a couple of months later the project suddenly grabbed my attention.
The key motivation behind this piece is an attempt to comment on the nature of privacy in our socially networked twenty-first century world. The spoken word element of the piece is composed entirely from statuses posted publicly (ie available to anyone, and not just their friends) on Facebook and Twitter. This information has all been put into the public domain with the consent of the creator: The fact that I took it without their knowledge and that many of them would doubtless be offended if they realised is exactly the point I am trying to make. Countless people, myself included, are putting out this information without any thought for what might happen to it, and what kind of moral-free reprobate might get their hands on it. The spoken word track was spoken brilliantly by Andrew Donovan, in just two takes.
One of the things I paid great attention to while writing this piece was applying the structure of the music to the text of the spoken word track, and vice versa. I will explain the musical structure first.
This piece is in an arch-shaped sonata form (with a palindromic central section and a three key exposition), and also uses my chopped process system (pioneered in my Work for Harpsichord). The chopped process system works whereby motifs are developed according to a process outside the piece, and then snippets of this process are pasted in to the piece, achieving the logical-sounding aural effect of algorithmic composition, with the bonus of only being able to use the bits that sound good.
The palindromic section of the piece is at the harmonic far-off point, and its palindromic nature mirrors the arch shape of the music around it. The chopped processes (one for each of the eight basic motifs used in the piece) are arch-shaped as well: Each one heads for a far-off point and then back towards its origin. The reason this is important will become clear when I explain the organisation of text.
Sonata Form in Tweet Piece (#2): (NB: this doesn't work without word's formatting but whatever)
Three Key Exposition Development Recapitulation CODA
E C (B#) B B> F# A G G# Bb C F D# C# D C >B E E
first second third 1 3 1 3 2 1 3 2 1 2 3 1[312 ()2] 1 3 2 1 3 2 1 2 1 1 3 2 3 3 1 2 1 1 2 3 layers
motivic group FOP
At C, the chopped processes, as well as the sonata form, have reached their far-off point (ie the motifs are as far away from the original ‘tonic’ versions of the motifs as they can get). At this point, we enter the palindromic cadenza, which is based on freely developed material not related to the basic motifs (the only passage of free material in the piece). This cadenza is heard over a particularly insane and lengthy facebook status which I really enjoy...
The harmonic movement of the piece can be easily followed by the ‘bassline’ a simple subtractive gesture which is announced by the guitar in bar one and heard in the tape part throughout the piece except for underneath the cadenza. This bassline (which also follows a chopped process) changes key very crudely at each point of modulation.
And now to the ‘tweets’: I thought it essential that the spoken word content was in some way closely linked to the musical content. To do this I needed it to somehow develop throughout the piece, and then to gradually work its way home. The solution I came up with was to divide the statuses I had harvested from Facebook and Twitter into three groups by subject matter. I gave each group two extremes of theme, and then ordered each snippet on a scale between these two extremes, creating gradual progression from one to the other.
I now had three subject groups of spoken material to go alongside the three groups of motivic material. The next step was the important one: Each motivic group could only be used when its corresponding spoken word group was present in the track. To make it more obvious what I mean, here are the three groups: First motivic group (tonic: Self-obsessed observations, FOP: Funny observations), second motivic group (tonic: Sad statuses, FOP: angry statuses), third motivic group (tonic: Subtle advertising in facebook posts, FOP: Overt advertising).
As will hopefully be clear from the above, what I ended up with was a piece where both the spoken word element and the musical material would begin in a tonic (key/mood/basic presentation of motif), move gradually towards the central far off point and then reverse and move on a different trajectory back towards home, eventually coming full circle.
One other important consideration was that the only way I could compose this piece was by waiting until I had recorded the spoken word track before actually writing the guitar part, as only then would I know how long I needed for each motif. In this way, also, the guitar and spoken word are inextricably linked.
Sebastian Adams, May 2013
- Post minimalist