Magnetic Arch

for one or many string players and electronics





















Magnetic Arch (2017) is a piece for any number of string players in any tuning. The piece may be performed as a solo. Each player’s part constitutes a performance of the piece. A performance lasts any multiple 4, of an minimum of 8 minutes in duration. In a performance with multiple players, several durational schemes may be superimposed. Parts are performed within their own time-frame and therefore may begin or end the piece individually. Any number of performances may occur or overlap in time. They may also occur sequentially, separated by silence or environmental sounds.

Score availiable from the composer directly.


























Extended discussion:

Magnetic Arch

for any number of string players

with amplified acoustic instruments and electronics



Magnetic Arch is a piece for any number of string players in any tuning.  Each individual player's part constitutes a performance of the piece.  An ensemble performance is therefore an aggregation of many individual performances.  A performance lasts any multiple of 4 minutes of 2 or greater (e.g. 8, 12, 16).  Performances may be devised in which performers begin at different times, and individual parts may follow their own durations.  Performances overlap, occur sequentially, or may be separated in time.


In each individual performance, the selected time frame is first divided into two halves, and subsequently into four quarters.  This yields a total of eight segments of equal duration, all performed in sequence without pause.  Each segment consists of bowing a single open string, beginning on the lowest string for segment one, moving to the highest for segment four.  The highest string is repeated for segment five, at which point the process is performed in reverse finishing on the lowest string in segment eight.  For the first four segments, a distortion system is engaged.  At the beginning of the fifth sequence, the exact middle of the piece, the distortion system is abruptly disengaged, and the second half is performed amplified but otherwise without electronic processing.


The manner by which performers play their instruments remains consistent throughout the piece regardless of whether the distortion system is engaged or not.  Performers steadily and consistently bow open stings with light to medium pressure in positions very close to, on, or just across the bridge.  The angle of the bow may be varied slowly and gradually, always attempting to avoid abrupt changes in the sound produced.


Much of the time a complex noise band will be produced, but occasionally and unpredictably a harmonic will reinforce itself and emerge from the noise band.  When this occurs, performers attempt to sustain this state for as long as possible.  Performers spend the piece actively attending to the momentary emergence of sound at the meeting of bow and string, and with a strong bodily awareness of balanced movement.


The score of the work consists of instructions and a simple graphic, which may be used as a mental mnemonic device.  Musicians should perform the work without score, rendering the instructions into a practice though rehearsal. 


Performance of this work, as with Descent from the High Arches and the Bog Chorus, acutely frames a sensation of awareness of passing moments.  Additionally, a sense of magnification of minute sonic detail becomes audible.  As these are coupled to very slight changes in body orientation, bow speed or angle, and mental attitude, the performer enters a kind of feedback loop with themselves.  This experience can be extremely hypnotic, disturbing, or pleasurable, and I have found it to be each of these in a single performance.  Performers are continuously reminded that their sense of time passing is but one of many possible frames of reference, a point made by each glance at the stopwatch that governs the abrupt movement of string to string throughout the piece.