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Circular Bridge Squirrel Walk

amplified viola and feedback system, duration variable

Circular Bridge Squirrel Walk (2017) is a piece for viola soloist and electronic system . The performer is encouraged, while following the mapped trajectory of movement across their instrument, to linger at any point they happen to find interesting. Such moments of lingering may occasion the aural and/or tactile exploration of the sound environment that they simultaneously create. The piece fills its environment with sound, while also creating an environment in miniature that is enjoyed privately by the performer.

Extended discussion of this work follows:

Circular Bridge Squirrel Walk

solo for viola and electronic feedback system


Circular Bridge Squirrel Walk is a frame for activity; a composed context for performance that results in partially unforeseen musical material whose continued existence is mediated by a performer. As the ‘circular walk’ in the title suggests, it explores similar territory on the body of the viola from two different vantage points, returning to a place reminiscent of where it began.

In a circular hike, the difference between a hike and a utilitarian, everyday walk is emphasized. Circulars have no destination apart from the marvellous. Since they end in a similar place to where they begin, they function to frame phenomena encountered along the way, and the walker is free to linger whenever something interesting is encountered. [1] The walker on a circular knows where they are going and how far along they are, and so can attend to the abundant circumstances of their situation. Circular Bridge Squirrel Walk mediates material instability in musical performance with a performer’s improvised reactions to the situation as it arises. The performer may proceed at their own rate, lingering over any sound that they find interesting, exploring its characteristics and developing it through their interaction. The only regulation is that they generally move forward through the score.

The piece is performed with an audio transducer in the left hand and a bow in the right. The audio transducer, a speaker coil without a speaker cone attached, forms part of a feedback circuit that it is driven by an amplified form of its own output signal. The piece begins with the performer bowing the low string of the viola while exciting the high string with the transducer. [2] At the start of the piece, the performer may make a few broad gestures with the bow to set the transducer in motion, after which it generally sustains itself with its own feedback, mediated by the performer lifting and reapplying bow and/or transducer to the strings. The system is very sensitive to pressure and a great many harmonics will be found and activated through different combinations of bow and transducer techniques, developed through practice by the performer.

[1] It is interesting to consider this perspective to the contemporary practice of sound walking, particularly of the sort found in Hildegard Westerkamp’s work.

[2] Strings may be returned according to performer choice for this piece. In the recording low to high C-G-C-G was used, to encourage as much harmonic reinforcement as possible.

Score available directly from the composer, and perhaps linked to here if I can get this website working...

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