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“Palestrina”

Performance directions/commentary

Matthew Lee Knowles


BMus 4 -
Mike Roberts/Paul Newland
Palestrina
Performance directions/commentary
Matthew Lee Knowles
BMus 4 - Mike Roberts/Paul Newland

There are two elements in this piece; the live


piano part (LV) and sampler part (SA). Both
require one player each.
The SA’s part consists of two A3 sheets and
the LV’s part consists of one A3 sheet.

There are two versions of this piece; the first, where the duration
is as long as is needed to work through the material and the
second where the duration is set at a maximum time of 10`15``
Both players will have stopwatches, which will be synchronised
out of the performance space.

SAMPLER
 Page one has the word ‘EXPANSIVE’ at the top. [The pages should be attached securely, so there
is no risk of them falling] It is at the discretion of the player to how the part is arranged: one option
would be to align the parts vertically, which would create a very tall score, meaning the player
would have to stand up. The other option is having them side by side, whilst the performer sits
down.
 Your aim is to work through the material, beginning at the very top of the page and each phrase
should be treated as a whole: if you make a mistake at the beginning of a phrase, carry on to the
end, as this will allow you more time to get a feel for the rest of the motif.
 All notes are in the treble clef and contained within an octave (middle c - b).
 The first note, if played correctly, at a level of PP will trigger the word ‘EXPANSIVE’. If any
other word sounds, the note has being played at the wrong dynamic.
 The numbers next to/above the music dictate the number of attempts you have to get the desired
motif/word. If there is no number, there will be an alterative instruction ‘PLAY UNTIL
CORRECT’ ‘ONE ATTEMPT’ etc
 the motif on the first page (right hand side middle) which contains six grace notes with the
instruction ‘fast’ applies to any pitches and should not be pre-meditated, or played with any
accuracy. whatever happens in this motif, you will follow the green YES line after.
 If in the first example ‘EXPANSIVE’, after two attempts* you have succeeded you should follow
the line with green words (YES). If after two attempts, you did not succeed, you should follow the
line with red words (NO)
* If you play the material correctly in less times than is noted, you should move on immediately.
 The material should be followed through in this manner.
 Your performance should be as continuous as possible, but you are welcome to take short breaks
of 2 - 15`` each up to five times during the piece.
 If you are still working through the material after ten minutes, you should prepare yourself to stop
suddenly at 10`15``.
 There are five motifs at the bottom of page two (PLAY UNTIL CORRECT/ONE ATTEMPT),
which when completed spell the end of the piece, (if before 10`15``) the furthest left motif, if
played incorrectly will send the player back to the beginning of the piece.

LIVE PIANO
 When you hear a word in performance from the speakers, you should find the motif on your score.
The appropriate, alphabetically arranged word is above each of the motifs.
 You may play the music in any consistent style/fashion, which allows you to concentrate on
listening out for words and you should always complete the music in each word you are playing.
 You should attempt as much as possible, to retain the words in your head and play them in the
order you heard them.
 Many times you will be faced with a large quantity of words, which will render the above
instruction almost impossible. In this case, you should choose which words to play, store or ignore.
 If the MK player stops before 10`15`` (when the material has run out) you should carry on playing
the motifs you have stored in your head, but being careful not to go over the time
10`15``maximum time.
Electronic realisation
construction of sampler instrument

 This piece requires a sampler capable of velocity switchable multi-sample playback with
approximately sixteen to thirty-two MB of RAM.
 The seventy-two words printed below (see fig one) should be individually recorded, extremely dry
and deadpan. The speaker should aim to speak as clearly and normally as possible.
 The samples should be organised into the sampler following the sample map (see fig. two)
 NB: when recording the words, the speaker should NOT be influenced by the resulting dynamics,
i.e. they should speak at a normal and consistent volume. The settings on the sampler should
reflect the dynamics, so that piano words play quietly and fortissimo words are loud.
Commentary

The idea of game is a recurring one in my music and I wanted it to be more present than any other idea
in this piece. There are two people involved, one on the sampler (SA) and the other on a piano (LV)
The SA player is playing the game and the LP person is reacting to the consequences of their opponents
actions. This notion, of waiting for information to be sent in order to react and start the piece first
appeared in my concerto for voice (“outrageously fulfilling and confused, hello to bizarre gay shit and
whoosh! goes an illogical imagination”) where the ensemble are waiting for particular letters to be sang,
within whole words, so that they can produce their sounds, accordingly.

The SA part covers one octave (middle c -b) and each pitch is divided into six groups of dynamic level
(pp-p-mp-mf-f-ff) Each motif in the SA part, has four components:

1. pitch
2. dynamic
3. instruction (number/text)
4. movement (back/forwards)

The player must attack the note correctly/as written and are told how many attempts they have to do so
(sometimes four, sometimes just once) Each result has its own consequence, sometimes sending the
player back to the previous motif, or even the beginning. I find it very appealing that there is the
potential for the piece not to get past the first two motifs: a 10`15`` loop could occur.
There are two versions of this piece; the first, where the duration is as long as is needed to work through
the material (for the SA player) and the second where the duration is set at a maximum time of 10`15``.
In the second version the SA player might finish before 10`15``, if so the piece will not be over as the
LP player is instructed to continue playing the motifs they have stored in their head up to that point.
The piece could last forever. [In this submission, it is the second version which has been included in a
mock recording studio version.]

Seventy-two words (seventy-two because 12(pitches) x 6(dynamic groups) = seventy-two) were chosen
to be used in this piece as the sounds that the player has to differentiate between need to be as clear as
possible. The piece could potentially work with numbers (one, two…thirty-four, thirty-five,
…seventy-two) but the reaction time wouldn’t be as quick and I suspect that the aural effect wouldn’t
be as interesting. There would be no real fun in guessing what number will come next, but with the
words, we know there is a common ground from the title, Palestrina, providing a less predictable, but
still present continuity.

I have recently studied Palestrina, his life and music so I thought it fitting that I incorporate my
fondness of the composer into this piece. I used a book on Palestrina’s technique as my source for the
material. I turned seventy-two pages and used the word in the top right hand corner of the page, unless
is was a conjunctive or repetition. Also, if it sounded too similar to another word, or I simply didn’t
like the word, then I looked elsewhere on the same page. The order I wrote the words down on the
paper dictated the positioning of the words across the octave, I.e. the first six words written down
represented the six dynamics of the first pitch (middle c)

There are seventy-two motifs of written music on the part of the LP. The basic compositional rule here
was that a vowel would be represented by a black note and a consonant by a white note. As I am using
a consistent language, with consistent rules, such as vowels being surrounded by consonants most of the
time, a particular identity will be given to the music. Each letter of the word has a pitch to correspond
to, so EXPANSIVE is made up of nine pitches (four vowels and five consonants)
the contours of the lines were written instinctively and there are no clefs written, which gives an
optional level of indeterminacy.

On my desk I have a plastic container, full of pitches (written, not music: so C#, Eb, f# etc) written on
cardboard pieces. It has been on my desk for about six years and is an integral part of my composing.
When I need pitches, I play games with the box, imposing a number of multi-layered rules and ideas.

For writing this music I made piles (black note/white notes) wrote the word out, and took the
appropriate pitch types and arranged them, to spell the word in my musical language. After I had
written down the visible pitches, I place the used pile of pitches at the bottom of the yet-to-be used pile
- sometimes leaving out a random pitch for a few words, sometimes rearranging the used piles slightly.
The idea for doing this was to create a very subtle almost unrecognisable continuity.

The materials for this score are: string, paper, A3 cardboard, spray glue and cling film.

Matthew Lee Knowles


June 2008
fig. one - seventy-two words
1. Palestrina
2. lowest
3. modified
4. vocal
5. interrupted
6. chapter
7. mixolydian
8. maintains
9. interweaving
10. approached
11. pulse
12. increase
13. augmentation
14. considered
15. unessential
16. suspensions
17. passages
18. tempo
19. rhythmical
20. behaviour
21. concerned
22. leap
23. movement
24. modern
25. intermediate
26. process
27. dissonant
28. unobjectionable
29. octaves
30. notes
31. harmony
32. passing
33. point
34. simultaneously
35. unaccented
36. conjunction
37. fourth
38. work
39. rare
40. characteristic
41. melody
42. discussed
43. orthodox
44. cambiata
45. curious
46. figure
47. favourite
48. following
49. sixteenth
50. resolutions
51. anticipation
52. collection
53. undecorated
54. quavers
55. diminished
56. combination
57. beat
58. chord
59. interval
60. semitone
61. procedure
62. portamento
63. technical
64. frequently
65. motet
66. modifications
67. perfect
68. subjects
69. fugal
70. cantus
71. imitation
72. expansive

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