the grand machines of mr. fox (2013)
The idea behind "Grand Machines" ﬁrst came to me in 2012 shortly after reading an article exposing the business practices of companies located in Asia who handle the manufacture of popular American technologies, speciﬁcally in relation to the treatment of their employees. Though the speciﬁc company the article was written about has since been forced to amend their practices, similarly horrible conditions are still faced by millions of people on a daily basis in many parts of the world. This piece follows a lone voice on a journey through a great and terrible percussive 'machine'. The sound of this 'machine' that the percussionists create is achieved by a sort of metric phasing. Although the piece is written out for the most part in 4/4 time, each percussionist is actually playing in rhythmic cycles of a smaller or larger number of beats. In addition, each pitched percussionist only moves to a new set of harmonies when their cycle begins on the downbeat of a measure, which, depending on the length of the cycle, can vary greatly in time. Because of these variances in the parts of the machine, the syncopation and harmony between the players is constantly shifting to create new colors and textures. As the piece progresses, it takes the percussionists 105 measures to all return to the downbeat of their rhythmic cycles. A short while before this is achieved, the soloist interrupts the machine with several wailing downward glissandi at which point they abandon the cello and begin playing as part of the percussion ensemble. With this ﬁnal addition to the machine, the process ﬁnally comes to its conclusion and the machine reveals what it has produced.