Shifting Signifier (2017)


ScoreFollower FollowMyScore Spring 2018 Selected Work.

A piece comprised of “every naughty sound our instruments can produce,” according to Weston Olencki, one of the trombonists of Rage Thormbones who premiered Shifting Signifier at Brooklyn’s Issue Project Room — a large and resonant performance space with 40-foot vaulted ceilings that allow sounds to reverberate heavily and for a long while. It is worth noting that no electronic sounds are produced in this piece, but instead complex acoustic sounds were shaped and combined to retain the features of waveforms we normally only see produced with electronic means.

These “complex sounds” include split tone multiphonics, often mimicking large FM chords produced by a complex oscillator. The score also relies on the constant changing out of brass mutes and various degrees of open and closed proximity with which they can be placed in relation to the instrument’s bell. Also included are the attachments of saxophone and bassoon reeds to the trombones, which act as amplifiers. Most notably, the score is made from a timeline sequence of audio samples with limited graphic notation and separate in-ear click tracks, allowing precise synchronization when performers are dispersed across large distances. The audio samples are of Weston and Matt themselves made during our rehearsals and workshops, in which the consistency and reproducibility of these sounds were explored.

Some rehearsal footage from Columbia’s Computer Music Center: