Wood Machine Music
For string quartet, clarinet, percussion and electronics
Performed by the Callithumpian Consort
Of the various timbral worlds inhabited by Wood Machine Music, the most significant can best be described as noise. Though this term inhabits a wide variety of sonic terrains, my interest is with a fairly limited subset of timbres. For example noise can often imply a pitchless quality, as with white noise. The associated instrumental timbres, such as breathing through an instrument or bowing the body of a violin, I find less useful. What I do find interesting can perhaps best be described as disrupted resonance and distortion. How to achieve such results acoustically has been an ongoing project. And of course I have no qualms about introducing a touch of electronic processing to augment this effect.
The piece is made up of three basic material types, the most significant of which is of course noise. This is expressed in the strings through various types of overpressure, on the clarinet with multiphonics (and, I confess, some blowing through the instrument), and in the percussion as grinding wood against metal. Though each of these techniques results in a certain level of unpredictability, the actions undertaken by the performers are highly prescribed. The second material type involves the contrapuntal use of pitch, and the third percussive effects distributed across the various instruments. Each of these material types has its own developmental trajectory. It is these trajectories, along with the interaction between the material types, which guides the piece through its various distinct and cyclical sections.
Wood Machine Music was commissioned and premiered by the Callithumpian Consort.