Page 1

Robert Dahm

stille leben des staubes for percussion trio (2014)

composed for line upon line an Dana Malitz gewidmet


Creating a realisation


Instrumentation and setup




Other notes for performance


stille leben des staubes

auch die welt war nicht fest; sie war ein unsicherer hauch, der sich immerzu deformierte und die gestalt wechselte


describe your experiences of semi-invisible architecture / try to stop crying


dieses plötzliche schweigen, das wie eine sprache ist, die wir nicht hören


nicht einmal ein geschehen, sondern obgleich es geschah, ein zustand


schließlich löst sich das ganze in systeme von formeln auf, die untereinander irgendwie zusammenhänge


und als ich um mich blickte, war mir, als stünden die bäume schweigend im kreise und sähen mir zu


wir haben keine inneren stimmen mehr; wir wissen heute zu viel


stille leben des staubes

Connecting modules

stille leben des staubes is a space of variable architecture, that may be inhabited for a variable amount of time. Traditional notions of form, development and material are distorted, distended, or eschewed completely in favour of a stretched, microscopic soundworld. The resultant space is like a forested landscape, or perhaps a series of rooms, in which performers and listeners alike are invited to wander, creating their own coherence.

The succession from one module to another within any given realisation of stille leben... is to be as seamless as possible. To this end, they are designed to overlap. This overlapping takes place in the following manner: • The first pulse in each module (introduced in percussion I) is to be performed in unison with one of the final pulses of the preceding module. • The first beam of each module stands in a particular time-proportional relationship to the final beam of the previous module.


stille leben des staubes has, in some respects, a highly unusual architecture • The first two pulses of the first beam may be repeated as many times as logistically necessary. Additional repetitions may be added as desired, that is both modular and flexible. Before it can be performed, it will be but they are designed as a primarily logistical tool. necessary to produce a ‘realisation’. The process of developing this realisation involves (a) selecting the modules to be performed; (b) determining their order and their manner of overlap; and (c) the (variable) assignation of Start in unison with one of the final pulses of the preceding module. The precise pulse to align with is left to the players, and may (and should) vary from players to parts. module-transition to module-transition. The overlap may be as short as a single beat, but it may be significantly longer. In general, the effect of a kind of ‘jump-cut’ between modules should be avoided as much as possible. Modular construction Time-proportional relationships. The first pulse of each module has attached to it (in blue, being cued by an imaginary instrument above the top of the page…) a ratio that defines the proportional relationship between this entrance and the end of the previous module. This relationship is invertible. That is, the speed can either increase or decrease by the proportion A minimum performance of stille leben des staubes requires at least three indicated. For instance, the first pulse of “dieses plötzliche schweigen, die wie eine sprache ist, die wir nicht hören” is an invertible “7:22”, meaning modules be performed, discounting any repetitions (see below). that the first entrance of percussion I in this module may stand in either a The modules may be ordered in whatever way the perfomers please, to suit 7:22 or 22:7 relationship to the final pulses of the previous module. The proportion is always calculated from the beam of whatever pulse cued the their own artistic or logistical requirements. beginning of this module (even if other beams are present). Modules may be repeated, either immediately or separated by one or more Repeat the first two beats. The first two beats of any given module (before other modules. percussion I is joined by the other two parts) are framed by an optional stille leben des staubes, as presented in the score, comprises not a single, directional, span of music, but rather a folio of ‘modules’, each individually titled. A realisation is produced by selecting the modules to be performed from the total possible collection.


repeat. These two beats may be repeated as many times as necessary for INSTRUMENTATION AND SETUP the previous module to end. In other words, these repeated pulses offer a way for I to fill out the overlap, before the module really ‘starts’. This will be especially necessary in situations where going from a very slow pulse to a Stage setup significantly faster one, or when the players opt for a large overlap, or both. The players should set up facing one another, and as close as possible to one another (while still allowing for the positioning of music stands and so Titling forth). The end result should be a kind of compact triangle. Given the highly flexible nature of what the piece ‘is’, it is necessary to draw Within each player’s setup, instruments should be placed as close to one a distinction between ‘the piece’ and ‘a realisation’, even in respect to titling. another as possible. It would be particularly beneficial to design a setup where any two instruments are playable simulteneously within a single When stille leben des staubes appears on a concert programme, it may ap- handspan (this is almost certainly impossible, but maximising this will be pear with either the piece’s standard title (i.e. “stille leben des staubes”), or advantageous for certain modules). In my own experiments, the best setup with the realisation title, as described below. I found was a kind of circle, with all instruments as close as possible to the centre. Pitched instruments should be set up in a row behind unpitched If disseminated in any non-live form (e.g. as a CD, YouTube video, etc), instruments. the title is to be appended by four digits indicating the month and year in which that realisation was first performed (which may be different from the Due to the ‘microscopic’ nature of many of the sounds employed, it may performance being released). For instance, a particular realisation (that is, be beneficial to perform this ‘in the round’ (i.e. with the audience sitting a particular ordering of modules, with or without repeats) that is first per- around the players), rather than with the traditional clear demarcation beformed in July 2014 would always be titled “stille leben des staubes 0714”, tween ‘stage’ and ‘audience’. even if performed by different players. In some acoustics it may be beneficial to subtly amplify the piece. This This stipulation reflects the implied documentary nature of the recording, should always sound as natural as possible, and is to be understood purely and the fact that, in this case, a truly representative recorded document is as a way of increasing the audience’s ability to connect with the (naturalimpossible. ly-produced) sounds, rather than as an artistic element in its own right. Where component modules of the piece are performed individually, they should be titled according to the individual titles given on their first pages. Player assignation Players are not locked into a particular part throughout the course of the piece, but are free to switch parts around from module to module. This may be done either out of necessity (some successions between modules will be impossible without a personnel switch), for variety (the notation always begins with the top part) or for logistical reasons (if a module has just been 2

played that requires extreme and sustained effort on the part of one player in particular, they can be ‘rotated out’ to a sparser part in the subsequent module).

p: m:

The upshot of this flexibility is that the precise sounding materials belonging to each part are also flexible, and will shift throughout the piece. This is perhaps most obvious in the case of pitch, where the concrete pitch assignations will change, but applies to all aspects of the percussionists’ setups.

w: c: s:

It is therefore important to distinguish between the player and the part. To this end, the players themselves will be referred to with Arabic numerals (1, 2 and 3), while the parts they play will be referred to with Roman numerals (I, II and III).

pitched metal 1 pitched metal 2 pitched metal 3 pitched metal 4 metal 1(high) metal 2 (low) wood 1 (high) wood 2 (low) ceramic 1 (high) ceramic 2 (low) skin 1 (high) skin 2 (low)

Instrument selection - general comments The precise selection of instruments is left to the players, but the setup should be constructed with the following guidelines in mind:


1. Each pair of non-pitched instruments should be more alike with one another than with any other instrument, as if it were a single instrument with two ‘pitches’ available. This need not mean that they be overwhelmingly similar (as in, for instance, two different sizes of the same object), simply that they are audibly related to one another. This should be true across the ensemble, as well as within the frame of a single player’s setup.

Each player has their own setup of a single array of instruments. The instruments are as follows: • Pitched metal (15va, such as crotales or glockenspiel. one octave, equivalent to lower octave of crotales) • 2 non-pitched metals (high and low) • 2 non-pitched woods (high and low) • 2 non-pitched ceramics (high and low) • 2 non-pitched skins (high and low)

2. It is important that the instruments from player to player not sound identical. Woods, for instance, should be, effectively, a ‘family’ of six different sounds of differing pitch, which nevertheless sound more like each other than they do like anything else.

The above list is in an approximate order of pitch from high to low, and from ‘sharp’ to ‘dull’. This should not be regarded as a hard-and-fast requirement, 3. The instruments must work with the playing techniques required. This but should be reflected as a tendency within the instrument selection. is particularly important with regard to the smoothness of the instrument’s surface. The objects must produce a discernible sound (even if The above list is presented in score order, with the pitched metals on a vanishingly quiet and indistinct) when the flesh of a bare finger is drawn three-line staff, and each of the non-pitched instruments on a one-line across it. staff. Only the ‘spaces’ are used. The piece was written with a selection of very small instruments in mind 3

(for instance, where the largest instrument might be a bongo, or similarly-sized drum). With this in mind, the instrumentarium is essentially treated as a large keyboard-percussion instrument, in the sense that the writing assumes the possibility of very rapidly moving from one instrument to another, or playing two different instruments simultaneously. This does not necessarily preclude it from performance with far larger instruments (e.g. that bongo becomes a bass drum…), although the tempi at which such a realisation might be performable are severely limited.

and two from the other two players. These additional groups of pitches are used to mirror and foreshadow pitch activity throughout the piece. The instruction to play using these ‘mirror’ pitches is a Roman numeral indicating the part to be mirrored. This will typically be placed either within the stem to which the note in question is attached, or at the notehead itself. Occasionally, this may be extended for a number of attacks, as in the following example.

pitched metals Each player is equipped with a full chromatic octave (equivalent to the lower octave of the crotales) of pitched metals. But the pitches are divided into three groups of four. One of these groups is assigned to each player. The manner of this distribution, as well as the notation on the three-line pitched-metal staff, is shown in the following diagram. player 1:

player 2:

player 3:


Note that only 1 has a pitch collection that ascends from bottom to top – the others bounce around a bit.

Note that the pitches are assigned based on player, but the score will refer to them by part. That is, if player 2 is playing part III, then any instruction to use the pitches belonging to part III are effectively an instruction to use the pitches belonging to player 2. Any single collection of four pitches (whether it be an ‘own’ pitch or a ‘mirroring’ pitch) should be internally consistent in terms of material within a player’s setup. For player 1, for instance, it is possible to have the ‘own’ collection made out of ‘material a’, the mirroring collection for 2 made out of ‘material b’ and the mirroring collection for 3 made out of ‘material c’, but these three materials should not be mixed within a single collection. When using multiple materials, the ‘own’ collection should be prioritised, both within a single player’s setup, and across the total ensemble. A ‘mirroring’ collection should never be more ‘weighty’ (a term whose significance should be freely interpreted) than its ‘original’.

In addition, however, each player has an extra two sets of pitches corresponding to the other two players. That is, player 1 also has pitch collections for 2 and 3. These should, however, be grouped separately, so that non-pitched metals each player has three groups of pitches in front of them – one of their ‘own’, The non-pitched metals should be of low- to medium resonance. Appropri4

ate choices might be small cymbals laid flat on felt (rather than suspended) to remove their resonance, or anvils.

There is no prescribed setup for this: in the course of my own experiments throughout the composition of this piece, I found the greatest challenge to be developing a strategy and technique for the fluid, even performance of the variety of trills required by the piece, at the designated microscopic dynamic. For me, this was best facilitated by a setup placing the metal thimble on my index finger, and the muted thimble on my ring finger.

non-pitched woods Any wooden object that is sufficiently audible when stroked with the unaugmented finger is appropriate. If this proves difficult (or, at the very least, if it is difficult to find an instrument that satisfies the performers‘ sonic criteria when both scraped and struck), then it is permissable to cover a smoother wooden surface with a rough paper, thus producing the necessary sound when scraped. non-pitched ceramics Objects made out of clay or stone are also suitable. The surface should be sufficienctly textured to produce sound when scraped with the bare finger. Small, particularly coarse flower pots would be an example of something workable. non-pitched skins These will probably need to be rough-skinned instruments in order to function properly, but care should be taken to find, preferably, instruments with a relatively resonant, complex sonic profile. Fingers and thimbles The instruments are required to be articulated through a variety of strikes, scrapes, trills and tremoli. stille leben des staubes does not use standard mallets. Rather, the instruments are sounded by the players’ fingers, both bare and augmented through the use of thimbles. Each hand is to be equipped with one metal thimble, and one ‘muted’ thimble (this could be achieved in a variety of ways, or with a variety of materials, but a layer of felt glued over a standard metal thimble has worked well for me – all credit to Peter Neville). 5


Interactive aspects are notated in blue.

stille leben des staubes employs a number of unconventional notational strategies, most obviously in its treatment of musical time, and extending to the symbols for varying attacks and beaters.

Periodicity defines the pulse-length in terms of a larger window, equally subdivided. That is, the quality of equivalence between one pulse and the next is its defining feature. Periodic events (in this specific sense) are notated in red.

The following description will commence with the manner in which such notations function at a level of principle, and then become more specific.

The precise ways in which these various temporal layers operate is described in more detail below.

Temporal notation

Beams and stems

It’s possible to (facetiously) claim that stille leben des staubes contains no rhythm at all, and is rather composed purely from pulse.

The score does not employ bars or metre in any traditional sense. Rather, the score is constructed as a kind of overlapping, interlocking sequence of beams. Each beam has at least two pulses (stems). The length of each pulse remains constant for the duration of that beam.

The way in which these pulses are constructed and notated proceeds along three different, although mutually interlocking, logics. These logics centre around different properties relating to the placement of objects in time – Each beam’s precise temporal qualities are defined in terms of both their proportionality, synchronicity, and periodicity. colour and their context. When talking about the placement of objects in time, what we are essentially describing is the quality of the durations between any two consecutive pulses. This is described in the psychological literature, for instance, as the inter-onset-interval, or IOI. Given, however, that we are dealing more with the world of pulsation, rather than pure onset, I prefer the term “pulselength”.

Beams may be regarded to be roughly equivalent to a ‘bar’ in more traditionally-notated music. That is, they represent a structural unit within which given temporal qualities pertain. Accordingly, beams often reflect this structural function through the manner in which the material attached to them operates. A beam typically creates a window of temporal space within which a particular condition might be said to be true.

Proportionality, then, refers to the relationship between two successive pulse-lengths expressed in terms of each other. That is, as a ratio. In stille leben des staubes, proportionality is notated in the black (primary) layer of information.

The term ‘stem’ is frequently used throughout these performance instructions to refer to a particular pulse within a given beam. In other words, any given beam will comprise a number of stems. In a sense, these two terms – “beams” and “stems” – take on similar significance to, for instance, “bars” and “beats” (despite the former pair’s notionally purely typographical significance).

Synchronicity defines pulse-length in terms of an external reference point (in this case, another player), either in terms of a simple cue-point, or in terms of literally following another player for an extended period of time. With the exception of blue beams (which can’t be said to have an actual 6

duration independant of other aspects of their context), all beams are extended until the end of the graphical space occupied by their final stem, rather than the more conventional practice of drawing a beam from first stem to final stem. This is frequently useful to define the precise end-point of a sustained action that is attached to either the beam or to the final stem.

This produces a sense of constantly modulating pulse density, as what might be regarded as the basic ‘pulse’ of any given part constantly shifts. These proprtional shifts always occur ‘on the beat’, and to this end there is always a single shared stem at the beginning of a new beam.

Black notation – proportionality

Blue notation – synchronicity

The black layer of notation (in conjunction with the inter-player cueing in the blue layer) forms the temporal skeleton of the piece. As stated above, it operates on fundamentally proportional relationships. This may be thought of as being similar to tuplets, but shifted up to a significantly higher structural level.

The blue layer of notation denotes aspects of synchronicity between the players. This synchronicity is to be understood in a purely temporal sense, and defines situations in which the placement of material in one player’s part is defined by activities in the part of another player.

Each beam within the black layer commences with a ratio. This ratio expresses, essentially, the tuplet relationship with which it stands to another beam (the beam from which it is cued). Where that ratio is blue, this proportional relationship is with another player (see below).

The most common way in which this takes place is through the cueing of the beginning of a beam (in the black layer) from another player. This is indicated through the proportional relationship being expressed in blue, rather than in black, and the two parts being connected through a dotted arrow in blue.

In the following example, for instance, the downward-facing beam is to be performed in a proportion of 7:11 of the previous beam, from which it is cued. Subsequently, the 9:8 beam is calculated in relation to this second, 7:11 beam.

In the example to the left, for instance, we see I cueing both II and III, on successive beats. The speed of II’s beam stands in a 12:7 relationship with the beam to which the cueing stem belongs. III stand in a 6:11 relationship to that same beam. The porportional relationship is defined always in terms of the beam to which the cueing stem belongs. Note that, in this case, the element of synchronisation is restricted to the point of onset and the proportional speed of a new ‘black’ layer of information. There is no continuing 7

synchronisation between the parts.

Red notation - periodicity

The other way in which synchronicity is employed is in the literal playing in unison with a beam from another player. This may be either in isolation, or combined with a substantial volume of other (own) played material.

Red beams section off a particular area of chronometric space and divide it equally. Typically, this will take place across multiple beams within a single player’s part, thus defining a length of time that is difficult to precisely calculate, but which is controllable without reference to another player’s activities.

The example to the left shows I and II playing in The window that is so bracketed by the beam is then to be divided into a unison with one layer of material from III. The number of equal parts as determined by the number of stems on the beam. part to be followed is noted beneath the beam. In the example below, the total time elapsed between the fourth stem of I and II, in this instance, are required to, as much the 24:2 and the final stem of the 3:5 is to be divided by four. as humanly possible, precisely mirror the exact In general, this should be interpretatively regarded as sitting ‘outside’ the qualities of III’s timing. normal flow of events. That is, it is a kind of superimposition upon the other materials. There should be a sense of awkwardness, of irreconcilability This may be facilitated in performance through between these layers. exaggerating the otherwise normal choreography of performance on the cueing player’s part (in other words, treating it truly as two players following the third). Otherwise, the quality of unison playing may be treated as a featured aspect in its own right, with the other materials hanging off that.



Signs and symbols

The score is pretty fastidiously time-spaced within each individual module Noteheads (lengths were rounded to approximately the nearest 0.1mm at A3). But it’s important to bear in mind that the spacing in this case is relative (due to the The notehead itself contains two important pieces of information. The variability of tempo). shape of the notehead indicates the type of attack (strike or scrape); while notehead colour (i.e. the degree to which is filled-in) indicating the beater Sometimes, this will result in situations where what is, performatively to be used (flesh, muted or metal). speaking, an extremely long duration may be notated with something that A single strike with the finger, followed by an immediappears to be very short on paper. ate removal of the finger from the struck surface. Like a normal mallet strike. Occasionally, there is a prolonged alteration in the sparseness or otherwise of the material, such that maintaining a given spacing would result in an A short scrape with the finger across the surface of absurd (and not particularly user-friendly) use of paper. In such situations, the instrument. This should be short enough that it I have opted to change the ‘magnification’. This is always indicated at the retains the character of a ‘non-sustained’ attack. beginning of the page: Performed with the metal thimble. Performed with the muted thimble. This alteration always takes place at the commencement of a page, and always continues either until the end of the module, or until it is next altered.

Performed with the bare finger.

The precise force with which the instruments are struck is context-dependent (see “Dynamics”, below). In some situations (particularly with The page is always broken at an event, although this is very rarely an event the pitched instruments), it may be useful to use a slightly firmer part of common to all currently active players. The page break is marked by a ver- the finger for a flesh attack, such as the side of the thumb or, in extreme tical dotted line extending from top to bottom. The event that marks the cases, the knuckle. break is square brackets, and is repeated on the following page. Page breaks

The score is constructed as a continuous geometrical space – theoretically, it would be possible to cut the margins from each page and construct a long, scroll-like version of each module. 9

Sustained attacks

The piece makes a subtle but important distinction between trills and tremolos. A trill is always concerned with the rapid alternation of two (or more) different elements (instruments or beaters). A tremolo is the rapid reiteration of a single element (even though this element may itself comprise multiple parts).

Sustained sounds may be achieved by three different means: a sustained scrape, trills and tremolos. The sustained scrape is similar to the standard scrape as shown above, but the scrape is maintained for the full notated duration. In this time, any change of direction or speed should be absolutely minimised, in order to reduce the production of added periodicities within the sound. The aim is to produce a ‘smooth’, unbroken sound element.

Put simply, a trill featuring two different instruments would rapidly alternate attacks between them, while the equivalent tremolo would rapidly reiterate their simultaneous attack. Similarly, a tremolo on a single instrument would rapidly re-articulate it with a single finger, while a trill would use two (or more) fingers in alternation.

This unbroken-ness may be achieved in two ways:

Multiple elements comprising a trill or tremolo are indicated by a square bracket. The bracket shoudl be regarded as defining the elements that comprise the trill or tremolo in instances where there are other things also occurring.

1. through moving the finger across the instrument at such a low velocity that the entire notated duration ‘fits’ within a single passage across the instrument in a single direction (sometimes this is explicitly called for, in which case a verbal note is made in the score).

Trills and tremolos are distinguished notationally through the type of note extension employed.

2. through producing a circular or ‘backwards-and-forwards’ motion on the instrument’s surface that minimises the impact of the direction change (as is the case in, for instance, circular bowing on string instruments).

Trills are notated with the standard trill note extension:

Sustained scrapes are notated with the standard scrape symbol, but with the addition of a ‘trill’ note extension:

Tremolos are notated with the square note extension:


The above description deals with trills and tremolos of the ‘strike’ nature. The piece also (infrequently) contains some scrape trills and tremolos, which are to be performed as follows:

words, they shouldn’t be thought of as a kind of hard-and-fast designation of objective rapidity. Slower speeds of reiteration should approach (or overstep) the point at which our ability to hear individual iterations as ‘separate’ challenges our ability to hear the trill or tremolo as a single sustained texture.

A scrape trill is produced through the rapid backwards-and-forwards motion of the beater against the instrument. It is denoted through the additional backwards-and-forwards arrow symbol at the notehead. The motion is to be continuous – that is, there should be no noticeable break between any of the scrapes. The beater is not to be lifted from the instrument.

Instrument location Occasionally, most notably in “wir haben keine inneren stimmen mehr; wir wissen heute zu viel”, the location upon the instrument at which an attack is to take place will be defined. This is defined along a scale of “centre” (“C”) (i.e. the centre of the instrument’s playing surface), to “edge” (“E”) (i.e. the edge of that surface – the very corner if the instrument is box-like in construction, for instance).

A scrape tremolo is performed by scraping the beater across the instrument in a regularly-broken manner. There should be noticeable (if still extremely short) silences between individual moments of motion. The beater should not leave the instrument.

This is notated as an additional space below the noteheads:

Trill and tremolo speed is notated through the use of the standard tremolo symbol, typically attached to the square bracket (although attached to the stem where no bracket is present). Speed is indicated along a scale of five steps, indicated through the number of strokes making up the symbol. The distinction between these speeds should be entirely relative. In other (slowest)

It is envisaged that there should be a noticeable difference in sound and resonance between these locations. In my experiments, this came down to subtleties of playing technique (such as pressure) as well as purely location.



Other symbols

Transitions of thimble usage, as in the following example, shoudl result in an audible change in the way the resonance of the instrument (or, in some cases, the resonance of the thimble itself) behaves.

The piece employs a range of other symbols in specific cases:

A single stroke that encompasses two instruments, like an arpeggiation, in the direction of the arrow.

A bouncing stroke that will sound the instrument a number of time with decreasing intensity before coming to rest (after which the beater may be more permanently removed from the surface of the instrument). This is the equivalent to a jeté bowing on a string instrument. The technique is also similar to a single ‘stroke’ of a closed roll, however this should be ‘faked’ to a certain extent to compensate both for the absence of the sticks’ natural buoyancy, and ensure a slightly longer duration (preferably three or more attacks).

Perform the designated attack at the very tip of the thimble; that is, on the flat surface.

Perform the designated attack at the corner of the thimble. 12


dynamic level). Any such changes should remain in keeping with the piece’s overall extremely quiet character.

Below are some general comments on various other aspects of the performance of the piece. These are not necessarily intended to be hardand-fast performance instructions. They are more an additional path into the piece.

Superfluity and impossibility Upon occasion, the score contains a volume of vertical material that is simply unplayable by one player with two hands. Compositionally speaking, these arise for a variety of reasons, from the privileging of a particular type of linear progression over vertical feasibility, to the intentional making-awkward of the physicality of performance in order to bring muscular physicality to the forefront, through to the notation of an ‘ideal’ state, rather than its specific realisation.

Dynamics The piece has no explicitly-notated dynamics. In general, the piece should be performed “as quietly as possible”, but within that over-arching direction there is significant room for flexibility based on interpretive and logistical considerations.

Throughout the piece, but particularly in such instances, the performer is invited (indeed, required) to musically alter the piece in a way that makes it playable. The result is a situation of ‘forced interpretation’.

For instance: • the relationship between dynamic and physical force exerted upon a surface is not one of direct correlation. Players should strive to achieve relative uniformity of dynamic across their setup (even if this is ultimately an unattainable and somewhat ridiculous ambition). This means that (for instance) a pitched metal struck with a bare finger will be, of necessity, articulated with far greater force than (for instance) a skin struck with a metal thimble, purely in order to approach a dynamic equivalence between them.

Typically, a solution will involve an interpretive assessment of the relative importance of the various elements present. Some may be presented early or late, as ‘ornaments’ to the material that is regarded to be important in its location. The material may be ‘arpeggiated’, where appropriate. A different beater may be substituted or even, in extreme cases, a different instrument. The conditions with which the performer is to proceed are:

• dynamics should be internally adjusted to reflect the player’s understanding of the structural elements of the piece. An example (and one that I would interpretively gravitate towards) is to give increased dynamic weight to materials that are further apart, to emphasise the more structural nature of their presence.

1. every notated element must be performed; and 2. the intent (in the player’s eyes) of the score must be maximally reflected.

Some locations have black wedges that look like dynamic changes drawn between stems. These should be understood to indicate the increase or decrease of intensity, but not necessarily one of dynamic. This intensity may be mapped onto any element of performance (including, of courrse,

The following example from page 7 of “auch die welt war nicht fest...” may be of some illustrative assistance. The section features two simulataneous tremolos (at different speeds, no 13

context. In which case, their accuracy and foregroundedness become important to their execution. The tremolos then become purely backgrounded. Perhaps delayed, or ‘faded in’ in order to avoid the awkward break that would result from the attempt to play everything simultaneously. Perhaps the tremolos do not lie comfortably under a single hand. In which case they may have to be arpeggiated, that is, ‘rolled’ as fast as possible, while still maintaining the ‘sense’ of a tremolo-style series of attacks. The speed with which such a roll may be performed will necessarily define, in part, the relative speeds of these two tremolos. less), with (upon the beginning of the 7:4 beam) the simultaneous striking of m2 and s1. Even assuming that both tremolos are possible within one hand each, it is plainly impossible to also simultanously articulate the strikes.

Beater specifications Occasionally, the beater specifications (i.e. the type of thimble/finger to be used) may seem almost perversely unworkable. This is particularly the case in modules such as describe your experiences of semi-invisible architectures..., which consists almost entirely of trills with the metal thimbles. Sometimes these trills are possible, but for much of the piece it is necessary to perform the trills within a single hand, meaning that there is only a single metal thimble available.

In order to provide a feasible interpretive solution for such a situation, one must propose a kind of hierarchy of importance of the various layers of activity. Let’s assume, for the moment, that both tremolos are achievable with a single hand each – that is, that both pitched metals, and both m1 and w2 fit within a single handspan.

In such instances, the notation should be regarded as representing an ideal, rather than a performative reality. The trills will not be literally performable with metal thimbles in all instances, and substitutions must be made (for, most logically, a muted thimble).

One approach might be to suggest that the two layers of ‘continuous’ sound represented by the tremolos are the most significant feature of this section, with the more localised impulse serving a more ornamental role. Or else that, due to their heavily localised nature (and the almost-certainly very slow rate of iteration), that those impulses may be somewhat mroe approximately located and still retain their sense of regularity.

Where the trill is performable as written, however, this should naturally be done.

With this in mind, it might be possible to perform the struck noteheads as a kind of appoggiatura before the tremolos to which they are, notionally simultaneously, attached. Conversely, one may take the view that the regularity of the impulse noteheads is the principal focus, the principal carrier of musical ‘sense’ in this


Other interpretive comments

appropriate to subtly shape the static iterations (through whatever means may seem most appropriate in a given context) in order to emphasis the quiet dynamism of the piece’s envelopes.

This is not a tablature The score appears to define an instrumental choreography in time, which risks the suggestion that an accurate reproduction of this choreography necessarily constitutes a valid and correct performance of the piece. In fact, the score rather aims to outline a set of conditions that must be met, and within which music may be made. The piece depends for its effect not on the intrinsic ‘musicality’ of the choreographic material on the page, but rather the struggle to render these conditions ‘musical’.

Keeping time There is no particular mandated (or forbidden) approach to learning the temporal world of this piece. Any and all useful approaches may be employed. These may range from converting all ratios to tempi, through to producing click-tracks, through to the use of a stop watch, or – taking advantage of the time-spacing – some kind of visual tracking across the page.

Silence is not silence | Stasis is not stasis

What is important is that, in performance, a maximal sense of interactivity is maintained between the players.

There will be numerous points within the piece where long stretches of (chronometric) time exist between musical events; spaces where either literal silence exists between separate impulses, or where an apparently static trill/tremolo/scrape is carried out between two distant points in time.

My preference is that, in performance, no external devices be used that may distract from the aural (and visual) experience of the piece’s performance.

It is important to regard these moments of silence or stasis as being somehow ‘pregnant’. They form the outline of pulsation, which is itself intinsically non-static. This may be imagined as a waveform, where a point in time is referenced dynamically through its changing relationship to the beginning and end of a single wave. It is hoped that there will be a certain dynamism within the silences and stases within the piece. This is largely a psychological, attitudinal issue. These moments should be ‘felt’, as much as possible, not as concrete durations, but as pulsations, incredibly slowed down. In the case of moments that are static (rather than literally ‘silent’), there are other interpretive solutions available. In some cases, it may be appropriate to simply perform it statically, in which case the duration for which nothing happens is in constant dialogue with the audience’s expectation that something will/must (and the performer’s natural urge to fill that stasis with activity). In other cases, it might be more 15

Duration of the piece

3. the total duration of the module as a multiple of the sp.

Due to the highly context-dependent way in which time ends up operating in stille leben des staubes, it is not really possible to talk in terms of concrete durations.

A performance comprising, for instance, the modules auch die welt war nicht fest..., dieses plötzliche schweigen..., and und als ich um mich blickte..., in that order, would have the following dimensions (all listed in terms of the sp of auch die welt war nicht fest...):

It is, however, obviously of use of have some kind of reference point for the calculation of such things for the purposes of planning, programming, etc.

• • • • • • •

To this end, the table below provides a set of relative, proportional descriptions of the dimensions of each module. From there, it should be possible to calculate approximate durations. The table lists all modules in terms of

“auch die welt war nicht fest...” = 340sp sp of “dieses plötzliche schweigen...” = 3.5sp (11 x 7/22) “dieses plötzliche schweigen...” = 385sp (3.5 x 110) ending pulse of “dieses plötzliche schweigen...” = 4.6sp (3.5 x 1.3) sp of “und als ich um mich blickte...” = 1.5sp (4.6 x 2/6) “und als ich um mich blickte...” = 111sp (1.5 x 74) total duration of performance = 836sp (340 + 385 + 111)

1. the (invertible) proportional relationship of the starting pulse (sp) to the end of the previous module; 2. the approximate proportional relationship of the final pulse to the sp (pr); and module title auch die welt war nicht fest; sie war ein unsicherer hauch, der sich immerzu deformierte und die gestalt wechselte describe your experiences with semi-invisible architectures / try to stop crying dieses plötzliche schweigen, die wie eine sprache ist, die wir nicht hören nicht einmal ein geschehen, sondern obgleich es geschah, ein zustand schließlich löst sich das ganze in systeme von formeln auf, die untereinander irgendwie zusammenhängen und als ich um mich blickte, war mir, als stünden die bäume schweigend im kreise und sähen mir zu wir haben keine inneren stimmen mehr, wir wissen heute zu viel


pr 4:5

final pulse 11 sp

total length 340 sp

2:3 7:22 4:11 7:22 2:6 3:5

0.9 sp 1.3 sp 1.9 sp 1.3 sp 3.2 sp 2.4 sp

184 sp 110 sp 28 sp 110 sp 74 sp 38 sp















































stille leben des staubes  

for percussion trio

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