[Variable Title]

instrumentation: seven performers and a conductor

program notes

This is a hybrid work that uses improvisation and notation in tandem. It allows performers to supply their own material within a controlled overall structure. Dynamics, global rhythms, and certain technical details are specified for each instrument, with more-or-less license to be taken by the individual performer. Such passages are contrasted with “free” sections where certain instruments take center-stage. The title of the piece is unspecified, given the wide range of possibilities inherent in the indeterminacy of the materials. As such, it is suggested that performers title the piece themselves when working on it: either by deciding on the name after each performance (similarly to how Debussy’s Prélude titles are revealed at the end of the score); or by choosing a title after rehearsing, but before the concert, based on the general decisions musicians have made in tackling the score. This brings me to an important point: although the specific materials are left up to the performers, it is not expected that they radically transform what they choose to play every time they perform the piece; they may choose to do that, or to settle on something they like and that they feel comfortable using, and roughly recycle every time. In situations where most performers generally settle on something, it would be possible to give the piece a title before the performance and include it on the programs.

It is possible to perform this work without a conductor for seasoned ensembles with sufficient rehearsal time, but the use of one allows for putting the piece together much faster and for less experienced performers to partake in such a hybrid improvisational experience more comfortably.

The piece was developed for a special concert featuring Nina C. Young’s Rising Tide and Matthew Ricketts’s Seven By Seven, and is designed to be paired with these two works. Furthermore, the two composers joined Amalgama in the performance on their primary instruments: Nina on the violin and Matthew on the piano. This was done as a deliberate attempt to blur the distinction between composer and performer, echoing the similar blurring of composed and improvised music. This performance also featured the composer and improviser Vicente Hansen Atria as second percussionist.

Lastly: although the score assigns a specific instrument to each part, this instrumentation happens to be the one available for that specific concert. Contact me to obtain a new version with different instruments.

Featured recording
Amalgama with special guests: Nina C. Young, Matthew Ricketts, Vicente Hansen Atria, conducted by Michal Massoud. Recorded live at Schole Street Studio, Brooklyn, NY.