Donald Bousted’s Video Works at EUROMicroFest 2017

DONALD BOUSTED has 3 new video works being performed at EUROMicroFest 2017.  SHELL and SOFT are premiere performances.  GRASS-SAND-WOOD has recently been first-performed by solo horn player Michael H. Dixon in Sydney, Australia and he is travelling to EUROMicroFest 2017 to give the European premiere.

SHELL and SOFT have common points of departure; they are part of a tranche of work which attempts to look ‘in detail’.  They wish to present their subjects – shells found on a Norfolk beach and a female body – with emotion, intensity and intimacy.   SHELL, written for bassoonist Chris Watford is in 72-div and SOFT, written for the flugel horn of Stephen Altoft, is in 48-div.  However, neither solo part is in strict equal temperament and both scores require the player to adjust ‘by ear’ to the pre-recorded parts.  These pre-recorded elements use Native Instruments’ Absynth and Kontake to generate a range of scales which mix equal and just intervals.

SOFT features a 13-note scale and a 22 note scale which repeat at the minor septimal tritone (582.512 cents).  These are irregular scales based on a ‘softening’ of the equal scale divisions to their nearest just interval.  Also present is a scale based on 10 equal divisions of the 5:4 or just major third (i.e. steps of c.38 cents).  The competing tensions of closeness, stability and dissonance form the basis of the gently moving flugelhorn horn part which moves in and out of tonic focus.

SHELL has a simpler design.  There are three scales ‘selected’ from the 72-et chromatic which the soloist explores through 5 short sections.  These contrast, in the accompaniment, with 3 scales based on equal divisions of the just perfect fourth.  Nine divisions at c55 cents; 6 divisions at c.83 cents; and 5 divisions at c.99 cents.

GRASS-SAND-WOOD is a triptych of linked ideas.  It’s a personal exploration of looking close, both visually and aurally.  The presentation, however, is rather more expansive than in the shorter works SHELL and SOFT.

When you lie in a field of grass and you slowly turn your head, each view is different.  Move a few feet and everything looks completely different again. The world looks and feels different from this near perspective: from afar, grass ‘looks green’; close, there is movement, there are things to see, a range of colours, insects, imperfections, anomalies and undulations.  In GRASS, I wanted to record the essence of the simple act of looking close and – in so doing – pay attention to the remarkable change in one’s state of mind which follows.  In SAND, the returning tide is recorded on a Norfolk beach; the speed is surprising, the result of a very gently sloping shoreline.  In WOOD, the act of looking close engages the imagination in a different way: we could believe that we are looking at majestic outcrops of rock or deserts of dried mud, but if fact we are simply looking close at the bark of trees.

The music in GRASS-SAND-WOOD is made from polymicrotonal scales, mostly derived from equal subdivisions of just intervals.  In GRASS many scales are used but most derive from the equal subdivisions of the just major third and the just perfect 4th.  SAND only uses one scale – based on the subdivision of the sub minor tritone (551.316 cents).  WOOD uses a selection of the scales used in GRASS but with one or two additions, most notably divisions of the just minor third.

The compositional approach is exploratory and improvisatory.  Images and sounds build together, one providing inspiration to the other.


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