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Pictorial Fields: Traces in 1A (2016)

for bass clarinet, violin, cello, and electronics





[Switch~] Ensemble

July 2016

Valencia International and Performance Academy, Spain

program notes:

The nature of the project is purely experimental, focusing mainly on the parameters of form, structure, and narrativity. It draws inspiration from Jackson Pollock’s Formalist Spaces with point-of-interest the painter’s artwork Number 1A (1948).

Michael Fried writes about Number 1A (1948) in his “Three American Painters”1: "[the] allover line [of the composition] does not give rise to positive and negative areas... There is no inside or outside to Pollock’s line or to the space through which it moves... The skeins of paint appear on the canvas as a continuous, allover line which... [creates] a kind of space-filling curve of immense complexity.... [The] other elements in the painting.... are woven together... to create [a]... homogenous visual fabric which both invites the act of seeing on the part of the spectator and yet gives the eye nowhere to rest once and for all. That is, Pollock’s allover drip paintings refuse to bring one’s attention to a focus anywhere. This is important. Because it was only in the context of a style entirely homogenous, allover in nature, and resistant to ultimate focus that the different elements in the painting—most important, line and color—could be made, for the first time in Western painting, to function as wholly autonomous pictorial elements.”

Translating into musical terms the principles Fried cites about Pollock’s work, my intention and original idea about this project was the creation of a musical situation inside a window in time, with no beginning, no end, incorporating a consistent and unique timbral quality, presenting a complex environment with several independent lines, and, most importantly, seeking to destruct the conventional notion of narrative by having a continuous line that does not focus or gravitate anywhere along the musical trajectory. I was imagining a composition without rest (continuous allover line), with a consistent timbral quality (homogenous fabric), with independent parts (different elements as wholly autonomous elements), presenting complexity within a line and vertical complexity due to the distinct temporal streams (immense complexity), highlighting the notion of lack of focus to be reinforced by the avoidance of the awareness of the vertical relationships (resistant to ultimate focus).

Therefore, due to the afore-mentioned conception, the piece did not create and does not provide a global score. The three parts were written independently with each part moving through its own temporal stream. The three parts, sharing duration and sonic identity by being consistent on a dominant textural hue, were written to co-exist by beginning and finishing together, with the instrumentalists playing using click-tracks and without being aware of each other during the performance. The notion of independence is also reflected in the process of programming the electronic component of the piece, the patch, which has been structured with three independent and simultaneous layers of live signal processing and three metronomes triggering at the same time each of the instrumentalists’ click-tracks.


score excerpt:
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