I’m fascinated by the spaces that open up when two parties separated by language, knowledge, culture, emotion, or whatever attempt to create a basis for understanding. This newly opened space – a kind of shapeless, shifting middle-ground – reveals methods and fields of interaction unique to the situation. These are sometimes unpredictable, sometimes hilarious, sometimes tragic, sometimes frustrating, but always extremely revealing and (to me) endlessly compelling. Struggling to Speak is a celebration of this phenomenon.
Including the word ‘struggle’ in the title perhaps suggests hardship, conflict, and maybe even implies some kind of long-fought-for resolution. I wasn’t interested in creating a work (another work – the repertoire’s brimming with them) that deals with conflict and resolution in the most ordinary reading of the term ‘struggle’. The whole title – Struggling to speak – perhaps imparts an impression of defeat or of being silenced in some way. Again, this isn’t a work about subjugation and the potential to overcome hardship. What I’m interested in is the joyous play of communication and understanding – a playfulness that comes from a kind of benign, toothless failure. When the ordinary, normal, unremarkable methods of interaction prove worthless we’re catapulted into a world of vibrant communicative colour, rich in learning experiences and newly-found perspectives. This is a world of discovery and delight that often nobody had any intention of entering. But how much better life is for having moments where they blossom in front of us.
Struggling to speak makes use of an accordion and three members of the violin family – two instrument-types with the capacity to blend beautifully in many ways. They also have their idiosyncrasies, which I exploit to create distinct sonic personalities. The string players make use of a naturally occurring phenomenon associated with a vibrating string: the harmonic series (or overtone series if you prefer). This series includes pitches outside of the twelve deemed ‘normal’ by traditional Western standards (although these ‘out of tune’ harmonic series tones are demonstrably more natural in scientific terms than those we culturally cherish). The accordion, having no comparable method of producing the same natural notes, is limited to the twelve it’s encumbered with by design. And so, jointly struggling to utter a quotation from Gesualdo, both parties open-up a rich and fascinating field of interaction unique to their union.
13 – 17 minutes
Performance length will vary depending on how the performers decide to treat certain sections of the score
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