Monday, May 07, 2012
Under Construction (1)
A tower crane, perhaps 10 stories tall, recently assumed a large presence in my neighborhood's modest skyline with the view to the East now dominated by its yellow fixed mast and rotating jib that stand center and above the site of a apartment block and small shopping center under construction. Always fascinated by large machinery and construction projects, I've made a point of following this site since the demolition of the old buildings and, in company with Mutt Lucky the composer's best friend, I've walked by at least twice daily since last summer. (I even tried to bribe the crane operator in letting me up into the cab, but no go, liability insurance and all that.) The attraction and the action for me is in the construction — the structure, materials, processes, and logistics — with the final, finished building, something of an footnote. As a composer, my engagement with music is very much of a piece with this, with my earliest compositional impulses probably those found while building with Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys, Togl, or Lego and the attraction to the music of John Cage and Lou Harrison, as a budding composer of 13 or 14, was, first of all, structural — the division of the duration of the whole piece into subordinate parts — and only then came the selection and distribution of materials — sounds — into that structure. Variations on Mr. Cage's Square Root Form and Mr. H's Formal Systems & Phrase Systems are still some of the most trusted tools in my box. They help make music which reliably holds together. Such temporal systems are foundation and framework, and they are useful whether or not they are, in the end, audible.