Category Archives: Solo

We Have Taken and Eaten a monodrama for solo percussion (2015)

In writing We Have Taken and Eaten, I tried to construct a musical language that was composed of sound materials that might have been left over in the dustbin of history. I imagined the soloist acting as the last human scavenging through the garbage heap of culture and then trying their best to construct a story from the fragments of trash. The story is about what we did to ourselves and the planet, and it’s also a story that attempts to create a new narrative for ourselves as we move into an uncertain future. And in the words of the poet, Abby Minor: “We Have Taken and Eaten is the result of collaboration between a composer, a percussionist, and a poet. The poems grew from ideas and questions raised by two sources: the origin stories in the biblical Genesis, and Englishman Thomas Hariot’s Narrative of the First English Plantation in Virginia, a sixteenth-century account written in support of North American colonization. The poems try, in their own way, to explore the questions raised by both of these texts about the relationship between relentless productivity and punishment/oppression. In making this piece we were interested not so much in presenting a story or an argument as a non-linear meditation on the origin stories from which the poems, and consequently the music and the performance, emerged.We aimed, as Gertrude Stein aimed in her own plays, not for a narrative but for a landscape. We think of this music as one impression of the intimate emotional traces left by these master narratives as they continue to move, glacier-like, slowly over and through us, as they continue to undergird our lives in perplexing and powerful ways.”

Commissioned by Kevin Sims and supported in part by The Pennyslvania Council on the Arts and The National Endowment for the Arts

Text written by Abby Minor

Here’s a link to a very in-depth and brilliantly produced radio episode of Arts & Letters by J. Bradley Minnick of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Public Radio.

World Premiere:
June 13, 2015; Bremen Town Ballroom, Millheim, Pennsylvania
Kevin Sims, solo percussion
Abby Minor, reading and psaltery
Martha Hoffman, psaltery
Bryan Ferlez, drone temple bowl

 

 

America cello (2013)

I grew up in a post-industrial city where the landscape was marked by endless strip malls and gas stations. But even within this nihilistic and vapid landscape I developed a sense of hope for our ability to overcome negative spaces with art and the power of creating something beautiful. America, for solo cello, is an energetic and tightly structured piece that explores timbre, virtuosity and differential repetition. The music’s “glitchy” feeling is created by a perpetual 7 against 3 rhythm which dominates the texture along with the use of micro-meters (3/32 and 1/16) and rapid timbral shifts. I composed the piece by exploring the timbral shifts that take place when playing the same pitch on different strings. Playing techniques of sul tasto, flautando, sul pont, and pizzicato create a continuum of tonal color which add to the stream of perpetual variation. Harmonically the piece is based around a very narrow range of pitches, just a small cluster, c-c#,d-d#. This cluster is explored in various playing positions on the cello and in the attempt to create overlap and sustain between the notes of the cluster there is a kind of acrobatic choreography that takes place as the cellist jumps from low to high positions on the fingerboard. The work was constructed in a Cagian way. I’d write a bar or two and email the manuscript to John Popham. John would record the music on his cell phone and email the fragment back to me. I collected these fragments over the course of 2 years. Our original plan was to keep our email/fragments process going until America (the country) collapsed but instead we opted to just complete the work since we figured the world might end before the country does.

This performance: John Popham, cello

 

I is not me solo percussion (2013)

 

I is not me.
Nor is it we.
Not who am I,
but where am I.
Here between I and me.
Becoming a stranger.

no grandma
no nostalgia
no place
no Sundays
Searching is still permitted.
no irony
no funny

 

Kevin Sims, percussion

text by: Leslie Touch