Archive for March, 2009

Sheng

Saturday, March 28th, 2009
Michael playing sheng.

Michael playing sheng.

        I’m currently working on a new orchestra composition that adds two Chinese instruments to the orchestra, the shēng and gǔzhēngThe sheng is a 3000 year old Chinese free-reed bamboo mouth organ. It reached Europe around 1777 with Pere Amiot, and its influence was so strong that it resulted in the invention of the reed organ, concertina, harmonica and accordion. I have been learning how to play the sheng since the summer of 2008, when I finally bought one in Taipei, Taiwan.  I have been interested in the instrument for 20 years, though I first learned about the Japanese version called a shō. I bought a modern 38 key chromatic jiàn sheng, which is a very versatile instrument. Being chromatic means it can play in any key and works well in western music as well as traditional Chinese. One of the things that I like about this instruments is it play chords like a piano. As a life long woodwind player I rarely get to play chords on my instruments so it is great to be able to. Another thing that is cool about this instrument is it makes sound when you breath out or in. So you can keep it making sound for a long time.  

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String Theory

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

        String Theory, was premièred February 28th, 2009 by the SFCCO. String Theory is a guided improvisation composition that uses a graphical score which is inspired by the theoretical physics theory of the same name. String Theory is the revolutionary and shocking branch of theoretical physics that combines quantum mechanics and general relativity into a quantum theory of gravity. According to string theory, absolutely everything in the universe—all of the particles that make up matter and forces—is comprised of tiny vibrating fundamental strings. The Strings of string theory are one-dimensional oscillating lines, but they are no longer considered fundamental to the theory, which can be formulated in terms of points or surfaces too. In this composition, I have used graphical notation representing strings, points and surfaces to guide the orchestra in improvisation. Since String Theory may prove Einstein’s unified field theory at the very end of the composition the orchestra unites. If String Theory proves to be true it creates an elegant universe composed entirely of the music of strings.
         One of the exciting things about using guide improvisation as a compositional technic is the fact that music is different during each performance but over all recognizable as the same composition. To help demonstrate this I have a recording of the dress rehearsal of String Theory for a comparison to the concert performance.

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