Brush Piece for solo bassoon, April 2016

brush piece image.JPG

This piece grew out of an attempt to transcribe into sound an impression—or numerous impressions—of a simple brush stroke painting I made. The painting shows a clear initial point of contact between brush and paper and a tail that dissipates upward as the brush is gradually lifted. Understood as an image, it simultaneously reveals the fast, dynamic gesture that created it, and, as a permanent record of that action, allows the viewer to explore more deeply the nuances of ink’s dissolution into blank page: flecks of white, twisting hairs, gradations, and various other undercurrents. I found that the timbral possibilities of the bassoon, from rich, low sonorities to ethereal multiphonic sounds, make it very well-suited to this exploration of event and object.

Formally, Brush piece is divided into two large sections with a brief transition between them. These divisions are suggested by rehearsal marks A, A', and B. Roughly speaking, they are 'impressions' of different modes of interpreting a brush painting like the one pictured. A can be seen as an intense focus on the core or originating locus of the gesture, and also as the understanding of image as action. Long-tone 'interruptions' to the active material reflect the mental space of the second formal section -- that is, a spaceous, free-time exploration of minute nuances in sound. B can then be understood as analogous to the "image-centric" (versus "gesture-centric") viewing experience of a brush stroke.

Written as part of a collaboration project facilitated by Claire Chase in her 2016 residency at Northwestern University