It is no new concept that is explored in this recording. If anything, it is one of the most basic tenets of the creative psyche, the desire to change. The impetus of the musical language that makes up this composition is almost entirely contained in the coarse need for growth. Change, growth, development, all of them can be achieved through a number of different avenues, depending on the medium and the personality of the artist. In my work, I have vacillated between mostly two broad practices to affect musical development: the gathering of raw material and stripping older material down to some essential state to give it new meaning. Somewhere in between all of this, of course, there are factors such as the historical context of the instrument, stylistic considerations, formal ideas and the most basic sense of what makes sense musically, that have to be taken into account, but in the widest possible sense, this is where growth has come from in my music thus far.
In the case of Eight Syllables, the emphasis is on the collection of raw materials. In the past, I have depended mostly on new material being the product of increased trumpet technique. This is standard operating procedure, in a way. By developing a greater ability to manipulate the machine, in this case the trumpet, you gain a new series of raw materials, which can then be manipulated and refined, which allows one to swing to the other side of the development see saw. The thing that is different about the materials that make up Eight Syllables is that they are gathered through the conscious act of technical abandonment. Essentially, this is the exact opposite of my general working method and caused a great deal of discomfort at allowing a sound to act as itself while trying to rid myself of the need to control it as much as possible.
To do this, I actually shifted my attention away from the absolute basic mechanics of trumpet; a constant for me up to this point. This shift was not so much away from the physical playing of the instrument, as it was a conscious magnification of a certain aspect of technique that is usually operated through muscle memory and physical intuitive gesture, the position of the oral cavity, tongue and teeth when playing the trumpet. These are the basic building blocks of trumpet playing, but when broken down and manipulated can create shocking extended techniques and subtle variations in an otherwise classical trumpet tone.
It may appear that, by manipulating something that is such a crude element of trumpet technique, I would be attempting to develop language more in the second sense, the way of refining older material. However, the idea has never been to control the elements of the embouchure, mouth, throat, tongue, et al., but to allow them to operate in an environment of their own, separated from their typical roles in the production of sound; essentially to set up a machine and let it run on its own, with no results based judgment of the resultant product.
Scores for each sound were created using two different concepts: the first was a rough adoption of the English variant of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) to create parameters of attack, body and decay of each sound. By grouping similar phoneme symbols together, a new kind of semiology is created that tells the performer the way in which the machine is constructed. The scores attached to this recording have notes to this affect. Once the physical mechanism is ready, energy is added in the form of an airstream which activates either the embouchure of the metal of the horn. The ensuing sound is then performed for a specific number of breaths, which is a concept borrowed from James Tenney, and that I have used in my work for a number of years.
The scores, if played separately produce an interesting lexicon, ranging from traditional trumpet tone with subtle timbral variation to something wholly non-trumpet related. To present the work like this is completely beside the point. To develop raw material or to refine older material is only a useful practice if it ultimately becomes married to musical intuition. If not, it’s only empty concept, interesting to write about, but not to listen to. In that spirit, the performer, while not trying to control the elements of the physical machine does make use of the ability to manipulate pitch and register on the trumpet to build the materials into a more personal expression. These manipulations, combined with the sound of the beautifully reverberant new Issue Project Room space, create something that comes closer to a musical composition, albeit a stark one, than a mere solving of conceptual equations.
Many thanks to Issue Project Room, Lawrence Kumpf, Daniel Pepice, Brian Labycz, and Philip White in their help with the musical and graphic portion of this project. A very special thanks goes to Ben Hall, for his visual work based on the same semiology used to create the scores. Receiving his work as the project went on was a major inspiration to me, as most of his work been in the past.