amalgam (2018, rev. 2020)

mechanical action organ - 19 min

amalgam is a brief collection that is meant to be an exploration of the possibilities afforded by exploiting certain aspects of organs with mechanical stop and/or mechanical key action.

the movements can be performed in any order and can each be considered a stand-alone piece.

(1.) tambour

"...St. Cecilia processed with us, singing and drumming a divine cadence..."

tambour: late 15th cent.: from French tambour ‘drum’

by placing a board on one of the organ manuals, the performer can imitate a drum by tapping the board. St. Cecilia, from the quote above, is the patron saint of music.

(2.) vocalization

"...the music sound'd as a flute or pipe speaks, rather than a living throat."

this movement is in reference specifically to bird vocalization, including bird calls and birdsong. 

(3.) tourner fête

"It was a celebration round and round. Off in the distance. Through the trees."

tourner is French for "turn" while fête means "party". the swell manual always circles back to its starting pitch, which is the turning referenced in the title and the quote. the rhythmic qualities and fast tempo are an attempt to suggest the feeling of celebration.

(4.) apparatus

"...He breath'd, softly and oddly. Only whistles came out."

when this movement was originally composed, I had in mind a former piano teacher who was diagnosed with sleep apnea well after he should have been, nearly suffering a fatal accident related to an extreme lack of sleep. with COVID-19 surfacing in North America in 2020 as I reviewed and finalized this collection, this movement took on additional meaning as millions of people around the world were put on ventilators to combat the virus.

(5.) the sound of computation

"Whirr. bzzzz. fsh. fsh. fsh. bip. tk. tk. bzzzz. tk. tk. tk."

I love the idea of coupling very calculated and precise ideas within looser aleatoric parameters. to me, they feel almost opposing in their attributes, but our human ability to recognize pattern renders truly random sequences to be perceived as containing arbitrary motifs. although this movement does have a specific 12-tone pitch-related trajectory, it is up to the performer to make the progression feel as though its being processed by a computer through the many aleatoric checkpoints sprinkled throughout.

/score/

 

the score can be downloaded for free. please note that the music is protected by copyright. if you'd like to play the piece, feel free to get in touch with me here.

this piece was recorded on the Taylor & Boody organ at NorthChurch in Cincinnati, OH.

all music, text, and images ©2020 Graeme Shields unless otherwise noted