Think back to famous titles such as Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun) or Tristan und Isolde. These programmatic titles depict what will happen extramusically within the pieces. Similarly, o u c n m 3 w E 8 (performing operations on familiar shapes) is a programmatic title, but in a less story-like way than the aforementioned examples. In the first operation, the visual shape of the letter “o” becomes “u” by removing the top arch from the letter “o.” Continuing, one can witness the visual transformations and rotations from letter to letter (or number). The music develops and progresses in a similar fashion; there are moments where severe dissonances create rapid beating acoustically, and then the rhythm of the beating becomes realized in another voice. In this way, the listener is taken on an acoustic journey—musical shapes unfold and mutate and what one thinks is, for example, an “m” slowly transforms into a “3.” At the end of the piece, one can’t help but have expectations for the following operation. What could the “8” transform into next?
–Jasper Schmich Kinney