trumpet, trombone, tenor sax, bass, and live electronics
Cube was written for the International Contemporary Ensemble in the Winter of 2018.
The title, Cube, comes from the idea of the four instrumentalists arranged in a square with the extra dimension of
depth added by electronics. Each of the four performers is paired with a set of stereo speakers that both amplify
their instrument and enhance their parts using per-made soundfiles.
The music itself explores harmonic ideas in extended just intonation system, focusing on a tonic of E, but at times
drifting far afield from this central pitch. The microtonal harmonies are most clearly perceived in slow, drone-like
sections where the pacing of the music is modeled on breathing. These slow sections are juxtaposed with energetic
solos and duos where each instrument has a chance to emerge from the texture and lead the ensemble.
Concert recording by International Contemporary ensemble at Abrones Arts Center NYC, March 2018. Mixed by Taylor Brook.
Wane was written in fall 2015-Spring 2016 for Olivia DePrato.
Wane takes advantage of the multi-tracking possibilities of a recording session, where instead of a piece for a single solo violin, there is a lead soloistic part with four additional “shadow” violins, all of which are recorded by a single performer. While this piece finds an ideal form as a recording, it may also be performed live in two ways: playing the first violin line with prerecorded second through fifth violins, or with five violinists performing live.
Each of the five violin parts features a slightly different tuning and when the open strings of each violin are played in turn, one hears something like a downward slide. However, this slide or glissando effect is actually a smearing of discrete pitches that are extremely close together. This smearing effect provided the title of the piece, as the pitches seem to melt or wane.
While the tuning between the open strings of the violin parts is extremely close, they are all part of the same extended just intonation harmonic system that treats G as the tonic note. The importance of this systematic tuning is that all the pitches now have a double meaning: part of the downward smear effect as well as a harmonic identity. In practice, it need not be one or the other and the ambiguity between a smearing effect and a stable harmonic identity can be explored in interesting ways to suggest perceptual switches and surprising yet smooth chord changes.
Virtutes Occultae (2017)
Virtutues Occultae is an album in eighteen sections for six physically modeled virtual pianos, each with a unique tuning in an extended 11-limit just intonation.
In writing this music I used a mixture of traditional composition methods of structuring the music with various harmonies and progressions along with more free writing, collage techniques, and algorithmic composition.
The tuning of the virtual pianos extends Harry Partch’s conception of the over-tonality. This album also exists as a six-channel surround sound concert/installation format.
Composed and produced by Taylor Brook
Design by Taylor Brook
Mastered by Christopher Botta
11 players and electronics
Lush was written in the Winter of 2016 for Wet Ink Ensemble. This piece was conceived as a hybrid between concert music and orchestral film music. As a composer of concert music, the attempt to draw out new ideas from mainstream film music may seem unusual, however, as I began exploring the possibilities provided by commercial sound libraries, sampler instruments, and synths, I was drawn to the idea of retuning these electronic instruments to create an electroacoustic part that fills out and expands the chamber ensemble into a bigger, richer sound. The majority, if not entirety, of new film scores are produced using samples along with the occasional sprinkling in of a few live performers to heighten a sense of realism. By creating music in this way, the ideal realizationof this score may be as a recording, where the precise level between live and sampler instruments can be completely controlled.
A second impetus for using an electronic part made from sampler instruments is to facilitate the performance of precise microtones through pitch matching. This method has allowed me include unusual harmonies and chord changes since the pitches of the live instrumental parts are almost always doubled in the electronics.
Stagger was written for Mira Benjamin as part of the Musique de chambre (noire) project developed through a collaboration between Nathalie Bujold (video artist), Quatuor Bozzini, and myself.
The video/tape portion in Stagger consists of remixed/rearranged recordings of Mira Benjamin improvising on the violin in a pre-designed scordatura (retuning of the violin). A similar solo with video/tape was written for each of the members of the Quatuor Bozzini, comprising a set of four short pieces. In the framework of the larger project of Musique de chambre (noire), these half-improvised pieces represent the deep collaboration between myself and the string quartet. Through this compositional method I attempt to blur the boundaries between improvised and written music as well as between composer and performer.
There is a video part that only appears in the last three minutes of the piece, which features the image of a raven on a wire, superimposed with its own reversed image. This footage was taken on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, and this particular raven was well-known as “Barky”, since he would bark like a dog. In the recording session with Mira, she made scratch-tones on the violin to impersonate the sound of barky the Raven that were then used throughout the piece.
In working with an Mira’s improvisation I wanted to make a piece that was almost co-composed by the performer and to allow the performer to integrate their own musical sensibilities and improvisational ideas into the work. Additionally, this workflow shakes up my usual method of composing and the techniques that I often rely upon as I must first understand the musical organization provided to me and react to a huge part of the work over which I have no control.
soprano, violin, clarinet, flute, percussion, and live electronics
Five Weather Reports was written for the TAK ensemble in the Winter of 2014 and was developed from an earlier composition for solo soprano and electronics of the same name. The text set in this piece comes from excerpts of David Ohle’s 1974 science-fiction novel Motorman. Five Weather Reports consists of five songs that set bizarre and absurd weather reports that are heard over the radio by the Ohle’s protagonist, Moldenke. Although the book was published many decades ago, these excerpts take on an intensified contemporary environmental and societal meaning.
improvising sampler created in max/MSP
The virtual improviser used to produce the tape part is a computer program that I’ve created that is still progressing through its infancy. For this piece, the rhythms are strictly predetermined while the pitches are improvised according to probabilities. A key aspect of this virtual improviser is that they understand pitch in terms of frequency ratios rather than discreet frequencies. Throughout this work, the virtual improviser cycles through different sets of probabilities of wavering harmonic complexity in order to provide a slowly shifting harmonic tensing and relaxation. However, it may be interesting to note that in this work the key never changes and the tonal center is always an A.
L’érotisme sacré (2011)
piano, flute, and electronics
The title of this piece comes from the work of the philosopher Georges Bataille, who connected eroticism with the sublime, religious rituals and death. This work takes slowed-down moan samples as it’s primary source, from which the melodic and harmonic material is derived. In my experience, these zoomed in moans tap into an immediate physical reaction in the listener, as perhaps hearing someone scream or a child crying does. However, due to the extreme time stretching of the sound files, the nature of the reaction is somewhat ambiguous and estranged. In the end, these samples serve as a theme from which I develop the all aspects of the work, creating variations and broader forms that are, hopefully, palpably connected to the original source.