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Work no. 247

Society is a work for an improvisation ensemble. Performers are asked to make some choices before they start playing: whether they want to produce noise or a pitched sound, whether it's a long one or short ones in a constant pulse, and finally, whether they want to play crescendo or diminuendo. Once the choices are made, the piece begins. If you chose crescendo, you play a short one with your chosen sound, then a second crescendo using the same sound – but longer than the last one, and so it continues, each crescendo longer than the last; people who chose diminuendos do that too, each diminuendo longer than the last. Then after a while everything changes: a cue is given, and each musician reverses their original choice. Those who played crescendos now play diminuendos, those who played noise now play pitched sound, those who played a pulse are now playing a continuous note, and so on. Depending on their instruments and their chosen sounds, for some it's not much of a change, while for others it's completely different music to play.

I think of this as my second sociological piece after Let Fade Completely. Our lives depend on the choices we make, but some things you are born with, and others are dictated by circumstances beyond your control. At any moment, a change in the society can force you to abandon your choices. For some, it won't be much of a change – maybe they were born into the right family, or lucky to have chosen a career which won't be affected by the change. It will be more difficult for others, and for some, the change can break their lives; it's the dynamics of this change that the piece tries to show. And because of the natural differences in the volume of different instruments, Society functions almost like an actual society. Huge rolling waves of noise break off suddenly to reveal many quieter instruments playing an intricate counterpoint, until they're swallowed up again – or until the change happens, and after it those who were quiet become the dominant force instead. (Some of the performers actually told me they felt like they were "playing themselves".)

Society was developed in Amy Salsgiver's improvisation class at MIAM in the first quarter of 2023. The recording above is from the premiere on April 28th at MIAM, played by Nihal Kurtuluş (voice, electronics), Ersin Çalkılıç (electric guitar, electronics), Gökçe Göknel (voice, electronics), Miray Eslek (clarinet, found instruments), Ali Rıza Saral (acoustic guitar, percussion), Selçuk Ener (piano), Bardia Hafizi (percussion, found instruments), Amy Salsgiver (percussion), and the composer (synthesizer). Recording and mastering are by Emre Tenker.

Society – PDF score

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