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In Memory Of Gentle Giant

Written by: Gustavo Matamoros
Performed by: Gustavo Matamoros - tape
Jan Williams - percussion
Time: 2:41 (Part 1), 2:56 (Part 2)
Recorded at: SUNY Buffalo, September 1994
Engineered by: Gustavo Matamoros
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The Inside Story

- by Gustavo Matamoros

[Gustavo] I have been listening to Gentle Giant since I was 14 (or since 1971). After so many years, I can't say I still listen to GG because of the words, or because of that catchy melody, or anything like that. I guess I listen to the spirit of the music: the unusual orchestration, the inventive structures, the elegant and flawless executions, "the balls"... appreciating certain moments, but no longer full pieces. Like early men drew pictures of their environment in order to understand it better, I thought that if I experimented with those sounds that caught my ear and used them in a composition, I would learn more about them.

I suspect I took an approach to this piece in a way similar to the one Kerry might have taken in the writing of that wonderfully insane polymetric segment in Interview (I'm sure I'll find out differently): the wild piano against ensemble section I can't get out of my head. In Memory is simply made up of sections defined by groups of cyclic pulses of different lengths. There are about 15 samples taken from GG recordings, each corresponding to a MIDI note and the pitch attached to that MIDI note.

Here is an illustration of the process of making a section:

I ask the computer: how many notes -- or sounds in this section?
Computer says: 6
Next question: which of the 15 should I use?
Computer says: E-3, D3, C#4, Eb6, F6, F#7
Next Question: how many 16ths long is F#7?
Computer says: 6
Next Question: how many 16ths long is F6?
computer says: 22
(and so on)

Then, each of the notes is repeated the number of times necessary to complete a section. The section is defined by the moment where the most cycles coincide. I went through this process several times in other to come up with the most interesting sections. For each new section I would add a new question, like: Should I repeat this section? If so, how many times? I was surprised by the melodic result of overlapping these sounds and pulses. This is how the tape was made.

I knew from the start the work should have a live component. I was interested then in the idea of giving the live performer a challenge beyond learning notes. So the percussion part is not written out. Instead, instructions are given to "fill in the blanks." I have never done this, but I guess ideally, someone should be take note of the percentage of hits and misses each time the piece is performed --kind of like in video games. The percussionist also picks the instruments, which vary for each performance of the piece.

The performance by Jan Williams included on the Giant Tracks CD was recorded at SUNY Buffalo in September of 1994. Jan Williams is a percussion soloist and conductor. He has devoted himself to the performance of contemporary music since 1964. Composers who have written works especially for him include John Cage, Morton Feldman, Elliot Carter, Lucas Foss, Iannis Xenakis and Frederic Rzewski. He was a Creative Associate at the Center of the Creative and Performing Arts at SUNY/Buffalo and its Artistic Director and Resident Conductor. He has appeared as soloist or featured artist on numerous recordings for such record companies as Columbia, Vox/Turnabout, Desto, Lovely Music, Spectrum, Wergo, DGG, Orion, Hat-Art, O.O. and Mode.

For more information, visit my web page at http://www.sar.usf.edu/~bonk/gustavo.html.

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