for vocal or instrumental choir
This was one of numerous graphic scores that I had originally planned to dispose of, but saved after meeting John Cage.
At the time, I had created a series of what I referred to as “image” scores, which resembled sparse paintings; this was the only one to have survived. These scores were often created with very clear methods of performance. The strokes in the upper left of the score were inspired by shakuhachi and Tibetan dungchen notation. These strokes were created first, and once in place over a few days I added the other elements as a contrast. I saw three directions of gestures, an oblique movement in the upper left, a subtle horizontal movement on the bottom left, and a crowd of horizontals and rising verticals on the lower right. These directions were important to the score at the time. Any additional layers of meaning as a result of viewing the score as a painting are welcome yet parallel to the work.
I have an interest in vocal and instrumental choirs and the way instruments of a similar timbre interact with each other, especially when they are not bound by melody or harmony.
Below are additional comments on my notes to the score.
The Notes to the Score:
- Written for any number of performers, this score can be performed in any manner the performer wishes, including aurally, visually. kinesthetically, synesthetically, interactively, literally, symbolically, or philosophically.
This is a statement I included in many of my scores and is one that is fundamental to my philosophy of performing them. I consider the reaction a person may have in approaching my scores as a type of performance. How they then express such a reaction, or any long-term results of this reaction are continuations of the performance.
As a performer myself I engage many aspects of my being in playing music. Those mentioned above are just a few, and they often tend to function simultaneously. I am often amazed that this is not more commonly discussed as I find an awareness of how all these manners of expressing music combine is important, as is the balance between them.
A performer may wish to express the score in any manner including all those listed above, exclusively or inclusively. However the performance may also be more intimate and introspective. Many musicians hear scores upon encountering them, and I consider this an aural performance, and as some elements of this performance may never make it to a stage, it is unique and special. An aural performance may also include hearing wind in a willow’s leaves, or grass, upon encountering the score. It could also include hearing a suspension of sound, or a sustained silence simultaneous to the sound upon encountering the score, or at any time when recalling the score.
A visual performance is any reaction generated from observing the score, and both kinaesthetic and synesthetic performances function in the same manner. Any visual image, such as imagining the colour green or a willow tree is part of a performance. As is any movement or physical reaction such as a tingling, an emptiness, a sense of confusion, or a blankness are all performances.
Any reaction to the score could be construed as an interaction. I see that as a person reacts to a score, the score starts to transform. The score initially observed is no longer the same once it has been reacted to. As the score changes, the reactions of the observer again change, creating an interactive feedback chain. Any discussions of objectivity or subjectivity are further performances.
For some a literal performance is interpreting the written gestures as pitch low to high and duration left to right, with dynamics from soft to full. For others a literal performance is a sonic recreation of the image. I will leave symbolically and philosophically for those that are inclined to interpret.
- It can also be read from right to left or left to right, and pitch may or may not be interpreted vertically.
This may be construed as a restatement of one form of a literal performance. However, the term “read” can be taken quite literally and the score can be put into words or thoughts in either direction, with or without pitch.
- A deep understanding of willows may be helpful.
Willow trees hold symbolic meaning in many cultures, and an understanding of these might be useful. Understanding the tree itself is also useful.
- The performer may wish to sit close to or under a willow, or give a willow branch to a parting friend.
An extended time sitting with a willow tree may provide a rich palette of subtle experiences, emotions and associations with which to perform this work. In sitting under or with a willow tree, the score is being performed.
The score was inspired by a traditional, but no longer practiced, Chinese custom of giving a willow branch to a departing friend. The willow signified the bonds of friendship and unwillingness to part ways. It also represented new life as the willow could be replanted anywhere forming new roots. The willow also provided protection against ghosts. The symbol of the willow therefore conveyed a melancholic sadness for a departed friend and the longing to see them again.
- A deep awareness of the performer’s surroundings and the soundscape is suggested.
I feel this is essential to all performances. This is an awareness, a sensing, of everything in the surrounds, and accepting them without judging if they are good or bad, wanted or unwanted. To be aware of all sounds and everything else in the surrounds equally, with each object holding the same importance – to simultaneously remain consciously aware of everything throughout the performance.
- This score can be performed in all manners simultaneously.
Windows of opportunity may be created to experience individual forms of performance as well.
- This score is performed by being regarded, and does not need to be performed to be performed.
You have been performing this score all this time. This score does not need any further action from you other than you encounter it. In fact it does not need you at all.
The Linfield Cello Ensemble, a group of seven cellists led by Diane Chaplin, performed Willow on April 24th, 2016. The score was printed on the cover of the program and the notes included within. Diane wrote: “It turns out that in the lobby of the music building resides a large vase of long curly willow branches. We placed that vase on a stool near the performers, and added a good amount of recently-live willow branches. We did…three interpretations of Willow. The first was one where we all played the same image at the same time; in the 2nd one we chose our own order of images (and in that one I was inspired to get a willow branch and gently run down the cello strings – very evocative). For the 3rd interpretation, we were contemplative and didn’t play, just admired the willow…”