Uberrima Fides (2015)

FOR ALTO FLUTE, BASS CLARINET, VIOLIN, CELLO, AND PIANO

Uberrima Fides was written for the Meitar Ensemble, who gave its premiere in Tel Aviv. Its title is taken from the ‘uberrima fides’ clause of contract negotiations — a legal doctrine in which parties to a contract formally declare all known facts in their “best faith.” Often such clauses are found in insurance contracts and assume the so-called good intentions of promisor and promisee.

Uberrima Fides challenges the notion that information asymmetry and insider status help to optimize a market. (In my view a market, read more broadly, is a community trading symbolic goods.) Aggregate bank data is mapped onto pitch and rhythm, providing a structural exoskeleton. At its start, slowly evolving durations and narrow pitch fields epitomize an exclusive community and a musical situation that is, in all respects, easy on the quintet. These sonic events characterize firms with the most insider status and concurrently the highest profit margins earned in 1981 international banking. As the piece continues, there is a noticeably sharp drop-off in status and hence an emerging instability of the piece’s sonic territory. By its end, the quintet has effectively crossed the threshold of the pleasure principle, morphing into an economy that inevitably tends toward failure — not equilibrium. At its core, Uberrima Fides asks whether we are better off striving to create, or to perpetuate, the exclusive communities enjoyed by a privileged few, or if we’d be best served by opening up our symbolic borders.

November 2017 / NYC

 

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