Glyph Tropes

[for electronic percussion and max/msp/jitter]

composed 2009: 12 minutes

Glyph Tropes is a 12 minute work for midi percussion controller and interactive computer media system that utilizes an elaborate max/msp/jitter patch.  As the piece progresses the computer-generated sounds and images respond to the performance input in an increasingly wide variety of ways.  The rather simple act of striking a rubber pad results in the triggering of sounds, chords, indeterminate gestures, successions of pre-determined pitches or even entire algorithmic processes.  The percussive input also “plays” an image synthesizer,  fluidly causing the presentation and alteration of video images.

While many of my earlier works for live performer and video made extensive use of projected texts (De Profundis for clarinet, Berlin Set for piano, 48 Movements for Snare Drum), Glyph Tropes was composed for the purpose of reaching beyond english-speaking audiences.  In this piece, the shapes, sounds and implied meanings of glyphs from various cultures, languages and even planets (note the crop circles) are used as inspiration for a succession of musical passages, or tropes. 

The piece progresses somewhat like a video game, with each new trope (or perhaps "game level") challenging the percussionist in various ways— sometimes to read precisely notated gestures from the laptop screen, sometimes to improvise within parameters, etc— always with the goal of musical coherence and escalating drama.  The creation of the piece was also a conceptual challenge to me as the composer, and within the context of each performance is a challenge to the audience. How many different ways are there to transform glyphs as music?  After the more obvious and sensible solutions are exhausted, the spectacle become increasingly elaborate and eccentric.

Finally, unlike most of my other pieces which require large amounts of equipment, Glyph Tropes was designed so that all the necessary equipment could fit in one suitcase. And it almost does.