SOFT MACHINES

CHAMBER ORCHESTRA & ELECTROACOUSITC INSTRUMENTS · 2017


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In William Burrows’ book, The Soft Machine, a secret agent, who has the ability to change bodies or metamorphose his own body, makes a time travel machine in order to battle a gang of priests. The priests have placed images from the Mayan calendar onto tape and transmit them as sounds to control the minds of their slave-labourers. The ‘Soft Machine’ is how Burrows describes the human body and the work is an examination of those external forces, which seek to control it.

Like its literary namesake, Daniel’s Soft Machines also defies time and space, bringing together instruments and ideas that were previously centuries apart. An electric guitar is placed alongside a chamber ensemble and plucked and bowed in an exploration of its versatility as a chamber instrument. There is also an intimacy in the sound quality; the different parts were recorded separately and then layered on top of one another. This is a contemporary method not often applied to classical recordings but which certainly makes for a far more immersive and multi- dimensional listening experience. We feel close to the sounds and, like Burrows’ aforementioned tape transmissions, these sounds invade our thoughts and teach us how to feel. High pitched, nervous strings make us wary. The electric guitar yearns and sighs and a lonely muted trumpet echoes the guitar’s sorrow. Inspired by Burrows’ cut-up technique, Daniel created a system for the harmony and structure of this piece and then dismantled and rearranged it to re-contextualise his musical ideas. The anxious overtones at the start of Soft Machines transform into euphoria, but it’s a slightly melancholy- tinged euphoria. Cascading strings and soaring, sustained guitar notes offer a sense of relief but as dissonant chords delicately crackle and struggle to resolve we’re reminded of our own fragility.

Programme Notes by Elizabeth Alker · Broadcaster, BBC Radio 3.

1 TRUMPET Bb

with harmon mute (stem out)

1 PERCUSSION

vibraphone (F3-F6), tuned gong (C#2, bass drum (approx. 40")

1 ELECTRIC GUITAR

with on-stage amplifier, EBow Plus, reverb and delay signal processors

1 PIANO
STRING QUARTET
1 SAMPLER*

with 2 on-stage monitors for stereo playback

1 SYNTHESIZER

with on-stage monitor or amplifier

*A polyphonic synthesizer of at least 6 voices may be used as an alternative instrument if provision of a sampler is not possible.

DURATION: 8 MINUTES
PUBLISHED BY MUSIC SALES
ALDEBURGH, NOV 2015 (First Sketch)