Contrabasson – Kristina James
Piano – Alicia Dixon
Saxophone – Brien Henderson
Violin – Drew Cranfill
Conducted by Benjamin Sabey
In western and central Europe in the early 10th to 13th centuries, Catholic monks organized a tradition of musical worship by notating and singing monophonic chant to accompany the celebration of Mass and other ritual services. By the 15th century, Franco-Flemish composers were experimenting with polyphonic prolation canons, a type of composition where the main melody is accompanied by one or more imitations of that melody in other voices, played at different speeds. Four hundred years later, with the invention of magnetic tape for recording audio, composers strenuously manufactured a vast variety of tape music. By cutting, layering, splicing, and modifying sounds from various sources in the physical world, these musicians created extra-musical timbres (called musique concrète) that changed the way music as a whole was perceived by its listeners. Further down the line, ambient music producers have spent the past half-century evolving this idea of looping colorful sounds together to attain lush soundscapes. One of these producers in particular, William Basinski, uncovered and played back his thirty year-old tape drones to discover that the tape had naturally disintegrated to some degree, causing the sounds to die away in chaotic ripples that intensify over the progression of the repetitions and evoke the ominous feeling of tragic demise. “Tape Loops” is inspired by all of these ideas.
This composition mainly explores the ideas of musical statements being repeated at different speeds. There are eight loops total, each representing the melodic material from the 11th Century Gregorian chant Viderunt Omnes. Each voice has its own unique time signature in every loop, conjuring a sensation of metric distortion. By the end of each loop the instruments meet at a convergence point, and the next loop begins. As the final stretch of the piece comes about each voice begins to break apart into snippets of sound and, eventually, into nothingness.
The lyrics to Viderunt Omnes describe God’s oversight of the Earth, an especially symbolic message given the musical stylings of unity and togetherness the composition came to represent. “Tape Loops”, in a similar way, is all about the fellowship of harmony, the aesthetic of discord, and the alliance of heterogeneous planes of existence. My intention with this piece is to offer a feeling of time dilation against a spiritual setting, where the voices converge and diverge at their own paces (much like the relationships that enter and exit this experience of life), and eventually begin to disintegrate toward an inevitable closure.