The act of running weaves a multilayered network of rhythms: breathing, heartbeat, footfalls. These patterns, all of which have subtle variations of their own, may synchronize or conflict with each other. As a race progresses, they may (intentionally or unintentionally!) speed up or slow down, shifting the resulting interactions into new combinations. New rhythms may emerge in the consciousness or be submerged under more intense stimuli. With these ever-shifting networks of internal pulses, a runner will experience the same external landscape very differently near the end of a race than early on. The idea for Pace was born as I stumbled downstairs from a lecture on the music of Conlon Nancarrow, my stiff legs still reminding me of the race I had run two days earlier. American-Mexican composer Nancarrow wrote much of his music for player piano to explore complex rhythmic interactions beyond the perceptual limits of the human mind, only realizable by machine. However, his music has since been transcribed for chamber ensembles such as Alarm Will Sound. Live performances of Nancarrow will necessarily enliven the mechanical steadiness of the originals with subtle human irregularities. Pace begins with a steady rhythmic groove, with faster rhythms gradually layering on top of it, subtly transforming it, and eventually threatening to overwhelm it.
Gentiana evokes characteristics of the alpine flowering plants used to produce herbal medicine or distilled beverages. During the three sections of the composition, Esprit, Vertige, and Racines, the musicians connect traditional techniques to the physical nature of their tools.
In the end, some of us will still be left alone.
– Bin Li
The film was grainy. Anton Webern and Billie Holiday were chatting at the bar. Tristan Murail passed by, looking a bit bored. Pierre Boulez was the somewhat disgruntled bouncer, unable to prevent undesirables getting past him at the door. At one point I saw Judy Garland with a menu in hand, seating Kaija Saariaho, Count Basie, and Arnold Schoenberg at a corner table.I had no idea what I was doing there.
Suddenly, Micky Rooney was at my elbow in a panic.
“Rita Hayworth has the flu! Quick, Sarah! Someone’s got to fill in! The show must go on!”
I tried to tell him Judy would be a better choice of understudy. I tried to tell him that an unglamorous, nerdy, Catholic, millennial girl had no business performing in the prestigious Second Viennese School Jazz Nightclub, that hippest of hip joints, lately infiltrated by a quiet contingent of spectralists. But Micky pushed me toward the stage.
“You’re the reason we’re all here in one place,” he said. “In your mind, these musics blend. Otherwise, they belong to separate aesthetic worlds that never meet. You brought us together. You have something important to say. NOW LET’S PUT ON A SHOW!!!!”
So I pulled on Rita’s silk gloves.
With trembling hands, I picked up a microphone.
And I did.