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Earle Brown



Program Notes The title is that of a painting by Bob Rauschenberg. Bob and I have been friends since 1952 and he and his work have been an influence on my work for many years and perhaps my work on his, in the early days. There has always been a layering and collage process in my work; the idea of 2 or more things transforming each other by being in “flexible” relationships to one another. Musical performance allows these relationships to change from performance to performance in a kind of endless re-association of the composed elements of that piece. In 1952 I called this a “mobile score” (having been influenced by Calder) but it has since been officially called “open form.” TRACER , being a kind of “homage” to Bob, has even more of this quality of endless and unexpected transformability than most of my other works, which is a condition that Bob himself might very well utilize if he were to compose sounds in time — which, as we know, he just might — at any moment. The four channels of tape material are on endless tape cassettes* (no functional beginning or end). The quality and time relationships of what is on each cassette does not change but the four cassettes will constantly be in different temporal and spatial relationships to one another from performance to performance. The conductor therefore cannot learn or predict the rhythms and placement of the four-channel sound environment that he will be “conversing” with in performance. The instrumental material is all music composed by me (as are the sounds on the tapes) scored in an “open-form” context — spontaneously combined, juxtaposed, modified, and “formed.” Working in the gap between art and life, as Bob Rauschenberg once said. Earle Brown, 1984–85

Robert Rauschenberg, American (1925–2008). Tracer, 1963. Oil and silkscreen on canvas, 841/8 x 60 inches (213.7 x 152.4 cm). The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri. Purchase: Nelson Gallery Foundation, F84-70. Photograph by Jamison Miller. Art © Rauschenberg Estate / Licensed by VAGA, New York, New York


Performance Notes



B b Clarinet

Page 1, events 1–3–4

Bass Clarinet

Page 2, event 2


Page 3, events 1–5


Page 4, all figures

Double Bass 4-channel Audio

Can be conducted as trio, duets, or solos (direct cues to 3, 2, or 1 musician, followed by downbeat). Remember that these

TRACER may not be performed without 4-channel Audio.

events can be performed from very slow to very fast, inclusive.

*Note: As of 2008, the four endless tape cassettes used at

The figures and/or events may be interrupted (by the

the time of the creation of this work have been replaced by

conductor) and when resumed, starting at the place of

digital audio and a software player. System requirements are

interruption and continuing until end or next interruption

a PC or Mac computer, four-channel audio interface, and four

(conductor producing silences and bursts of sound).

loudspeakers positioned around the audience. Events (in winds), page 1, event 1; page 2, event 2; page 3 The player program for Mac/PC and the four audio channels

all events, to be considered as repeating loops — i.e., always

can be found on the media delivered as part of the score

begin again at point of previous interruption. The same

for the audio engineer. The program is a “Max/ MSP” patch

applies (where parallel) to the strings’ score and parts.

and allows four-channel playback of the audio files, as well as routing and mixing of the channels for maximum control

Let the instrumentalists be quite free and very virtuosic.

from within the computer. Endless audio loops simulate the

Let them improvise rhythm and instrumental timbre (in page

original endless cassette tapes. The program supports the

2, event 2, for instance).

generation of random entry points. The latest version of the software player can be found at

Performance Notes by Earle Brown

DIRECTIONS FOR PERFORMANCE Earle Brown formulated general instructions for “open-form”

pages 4, can be considered an “event”] and may proceed

sections and proportional notation for earlier compositions,

from any page to any other page at any time, with or without

such as NOVARA (1962; published by Editions Peters),

repetitions or omissions of pages or events, remaining on

excerpted below:

any page or event as long as he wishes.

Preliminary Notes Spontaneous decisions in the performance of a work and

The numbers of the score pages to be played from are

the possibility of the composed elements being “mobile”

indicated to the musicians by a movable arrow on a placard

have been of primary interest to me for some time; the

displaying the page numbers 1 to 4 — the number and arrow

former to an extreme degree in FOLIO (1952), and the latter,

being clearly visible to all members of the group, and the

most explicitly, in TWENTY FIVE PAGES (1953). For me,

arrow comfortably within reach of the conductor.

the concept of the elements being mobile was inspired by the mobiles of Alexander Calder, in which, similar to this

It is suggested that the podium be wide enough (or that

work, there are basic units subject to innumerable different

enough music stands be used as a podium) for all four

relationships or forms. The concept of the work being

score pages to fit next to one another so as to be visible to

conducted and formed spontaneously in performance was

the conductor at all times during the performance. (In the

originally inspired by the “action-painting” techniques and

parts, all of the events on all of the pages are visible to the

works of Jackson Pollock in the late 1940s, in which the

musicians without the necessity of page turns.)

immediacy and directness of “contact” with the material is of great importance and produces such an intensity in the

Time Notation *

working and in the result. The performance conditions of

There is a built-in factor of flexibility in the notation and

these works are similar to a painter working spontaneously

scoring of this piece because the availability of forms is

with a given palette.

based on letting go of the idea of metric accuracy. This is achieved through the notational system used in this work.

The conductor may conduct the events in any sequence or

This system, which I have called a “time-notation,” is a

juxtaposition, in changing tempi, loudness and, in general,

development of the work in FOLIO (1952 and 1953) and most

mold and form the piece. The inherent flexibility of the

clearly represents sound-relationships in the score as I wish

materials allows the work to constantly transform itself

them to exist in performance; independent of a strict pulse

and re-express its potential, while the sound materials and

or metric system.

characteristics which I have composed contain the essential “identity” which makes this work different from any other.

It is a “time-notation” (now generally called “proportional notation”) in that the performer’s relationship to the score,

I have felt that the conditions of spontaneity and mobility

and the actual sound in performance, is realized in terms of

of elements which I have been working with create a more

the performer’s time-sense perception of the relationships

urgent and intense “communication” throughout the entire

defined by the score and not in terms of a rational metric

process, from composing to the final realization of a work,

system of additive units. The durations are extended

I prefer that each “final form,” which each performance

visibly through their complete space-time of sounding and

necessarily produces, be a collaborative adventure, and that

are precise relative to the space-time of the score. It is

the work and its conditions of human involvement remain a

expected that the performers will observe as closely as

“living” potential of engagement.

possible the “apparent” relationships of sound and silence but act without hesitation on the basis of their perceptions.

Score and Structure The conductor may begin a performance with any event

It must be understood that the performance is not expected

on any page [in TRACER large numbers in black are used

to be a precise translation of the spatial relationships but

to denote “pages;” numbers in red, and each solo line on

a relative and more spontaneous realization through the [* This applies only to the sections in Tracer in which conventional rhythmic notation is not used.]

involvement of the performers’ subtly changing perceptions

performed. The conductor must, as with any notation, insist

of the spatial relationships. The resulting flexibility and

on accurately articulated relationships from the rhythmic

natural deviations from the precise indications in the score

“shape” of phrase and pitch sequences in this work.

are acceptable and in fact integral to the nature of the work. The result is the accurate expression of the actions of

General Modifications of Events

people when accuracy is not demanded but “conditioned” as

con d ucte d fe r mata :

a function within a human process.

fermata at any time during the performance, in any single

the conductor may introduce a

event or combination of events. Both hands cupped Conducting

towards the orchestra and held stationary indicates that all

The conducting technique is basically one of cueing; the

musicians in that group should hold the sound or silence

notation precludes the necessity and function of “beat” in

which they are at that moment performing, until the next

the usual sense (although the conductor does indicate the

sign from the conductor tells them either to cut off or to

relative tempo). The page which contains the event to be

continue from the point of interruption. A cut-off is signaled

played is indicated by the arrow, as previously explained.

with both hands and must be followed by another event-

The number of the event to be performed is indicated

signal from the left hand and a down-beat. To continue, the

by the left hand of the conductor—one to five fingers. A

conductor moves both hands from the “hold” position back

conventional (right-hand) down-beat initiates the activity.

to the body and then outward towards the orchestra, palms

The relative speed and dynamic intensity with which an

up (as if giving the initiative back to the orchestra).

event is to be performed is implied by the speed and largeness of the down-beat as given with the right hand.

con d ucte d stop :

Nearly all of the events in the score have been assigned

combination of events at any time during the performance.

dynamic values. These are acoustically accurate in terms of

The normal, two-hand cut-off signal will silence his entire

instrumental and ensemble sonority and balance and must

group. Leaving the hands up will hold that silence until the

be respected as written, although the conductor may “over-

signal to continue from the point of interruption is given. If

ride” the indicated dynamic values and raise or lower the

the hands do not remain up in “hold” position, the musicians

over-all loudness.

are to expect another event-signal from the left hand, and

the conductor may stop any event or

a down-beat. The “graphic” notations . . . are a generalized way of indicating instrumental activity and non-characteristic

mod i fication of s i ng le eve nt :

sounds. Observe very carefully the character and rhythm

affects the entire group. The conductor may wish, however,

of the graphics, the verbal indication of technique of

to modify only one event among two or more events

articulations, and the approximate frequencies covered by

being performed simultaneously. To do this he signals the

the rise and fall of the graphic line. All sounds are basically

number of the event to be modified with his left hand; then

delicate and microtonal.

indicates the modification — a hold or cut-off — with only

any two-hand cut-off signal

his right hand. (Events not indicated by the fingers of the The conception of the work is that the score presents

conductor’s left hand continue to proceed normally.) It is

specific material having different characteristics, and that

absolutely essential that the orchestra members clearly

this material is subject to many inherent modifications,

understand this difference in signaling: a hold or cut-off

such as modifications of combinations (event plus event),

by both hands affects an entire group; a hold or cut-off by

sequences, dynamics, and tempos, spontaneously created

only the right hand affects only the event indicated by the

during the performance. All events are always prepared by

fingers of the left hand. Players whose parts do not contain

a left-hand signal and initiated by a down-beat from the

events signaled by the conductor’s left hand must remain

conductor; the size and rapidity of the down-beat implies

unaffected by his subsequent right-hand indications.

the loudness and speed with which the event is to be

FURTHER MODIFICATIONS As soon as the conductor initiates (by left-hand event-signal

After considerable rehearsal, sufficient for the musicians to

and right-hand down-beat) a new event that appears on the

feel secure in their flexible but very accurate relationships

player’s part, the preceding event is automatically cancelled.

to one another in each event as they appear on the

No specific stop-signal is required. The player simply

pages of the score, it is possible for the conductor to use

discontinues the event he is playing and, without break

some of the individual lines of the events as solos. This

between events, begins to play the new one.

possibility considerably expands the formal potentials of any performance but I insist that the formal integrity of

With these procedures clearly understood by the conductor

the events as they are scored be maintained for the most

and the musicians it is possible to achieve smooth

part. The events, as scored, give the work a strong identity

transitions and long lines of connected material of extreme

and the individual lines as solos should be used only as

complexity and frequent modification. The first impression

variations on the identifiable events, as scored.

derived from the score will be one of many sporadic fragments. This wealth of fragments shows the numerous formal possibilities inherent in the work, and it is this realization, not the fragmentations, that must become the dominant characteristic of performance. Dynamics All indications of dynamics are relative to the instrumental technique and register of the particular sound called for, i.e., a string sound to be played col legno tratto, sul ponticello, with a dynamic of ffff, must be played as loudly as possible regardless of the dynamic intensity produced by the same dynamic marking in an instrument of a different nature. Thus, a low C in the Flute marked ffff is not expected to have the same volume as a middle-register tone marked ffff in a clarinet. This simply means that the flutist is to play his tones at the maximum volume available in that register of his instrument. The pppp indicates that the sound is to be as soft as possible. All dynamic indications are “balanced� in this way, relative to their acoustic functions within the event-structures and the characteristics of the instruments employed in them.

tracer (1985)

Earle Brown (1926–2002)

[Winds page 1]

[Winds page 2]

Litolff/Peters Nr. 11123

© 2008 by Henry Litolff ’s Verlag


[Winds page 3]

[Winds page 4]

[Strings page 1]

[Strings page 2]

[Strings page 3]

[Strings page 4]

Earle Brown: Tracer  

for ensemble

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