KATE SOPER - Voices from the Killing Jar
A killing jar is a tool used by entomologists to kill butterflies and other insects without damaging their bodies: a hermitically sealable glass container, lined with poison, in which the specimen will quickly suffocate. Voices from the Killing Jar is a seven-movement work for vocalist and ensemble which depicts a series of female protagonists who are caught in their own kinds of killing jars: hopeless situations, inescapable fates, impossible fantasies, and other unlucky circumstances. Their jailers, the ones screwing the lid on tight, are sometimes friends or lovers, sometimes strangers, and sometimes themselves, their longings and ambitions and delusions. Among these women are housewives and teenagers and mothers and daughters, innocents and tragic heroines and femmes fatales.
We don't know how all their stories end. Four will eventually die violently, while the rest may be young enough to change course. Voices from the Killing Jar visits these women only for a diary entry or a scene or a chapter in their lives, lets them speak for a moment, and then returns them to history and myth.
The world in which these characters live for the span of this piece is constructed from among the countless possible sonic environments of the seven-member Wet Ink Band. This is a piece written not for instruments, but for individual players with individual skill sets, from the typical (the saxophonist plays the clarinet) to the more peculiar (the soprano also plays the clarinet). The transformation of the musicians, as they take up or trade instruments and occasionally move around the stage, is part of the mercurial landscape of the piece. Shape-shifting, the ensemble forms and reforms between and within each movement, moving through myriad textures, styles, and moods, following the path traced by the seven characters from 20th century Japan to ancient Greece to the French Revolution.
GEORGE LEWIS - Artificial Life 2007/2017
Created for the Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra, Artificial Life is a schema for collective improvisation – and collective silence. No musical material is prescribed; the principle is rather that of stimulus, and the medium that of verbal instructions that could give rise to radically different results, depending on the performers taking part.
There are just two pages of these instructions, which may be followed separately, in either order, or together. Lewis further suggests that moments of silence will be needed – not empty silence, but a silence filled with listening and decisionmaking as the musicians prepare to contribute to the artificial life that is their joint creation. “The success of the performance,” the composer finally notes, “is not so much related to individual freedoms but to the assumption of personal and collective responsibility for the sonic environment.”