...the shifting jelly of heads looming over your little face [2019]

two sopranos and two iPads

for Peridot Duo

ca. 15'

Performance History

About the Work


In the final section of ...the shifting jelly of heads looming over your little face, a phrase which would normally be uttered in a second is now meant to progress continually over the span of three minutes. This temporal stretch unlocks complex oral cavity shapes which slowly, but ceaselessly, progress in a slow crawl. To faithfully accomplish this task, an intense level of focus and proprioceptive awareness are activated within the performer(s). Each moment is ruled by a fluctuating, liminal oral filter as well as a relative acuity of perceptual/physical energy which become responsible for the resulting sonic material.


Through this process of temporal stretching, microscopic, virtual, spaces (gaps between sounds or physical actions inherent in the text’s performance), are actualized into palpable events. For example, imagine viewing a piece of cloth under a microscope. The constitutive fibers, and the atomic gaps between them, are thrust into focus and can be experienced, measured, altered, etc. Furthermore, I then “hack” into this elusive, sub-dermal, realm, which is analogous to the source code of a piece of software. Just like a coder, I am free to insert independent, newly-derived gestural material, which can bolster, obfuscate, contradict and/or vaguely reference the slow moving text. A coder’s hacks can repurpose, revamp, improve, debug, infest, “brick” or even destroy the software/device in question. This same dynamic is at play here, within the organic machine of the vocal apparatus.


Information relating to pitch, dynamics, tongue position, jaw position, aperture, mode of phonation, amount of constriction and articulations are inserted and allowed to flourish within these unlocked spaces. These disparate information streams are processed through the "source code" of the stretched text as well as idiosyncratic physicality of the performer(s). Furthermore, the performers are acting under the auspices of negative dynamics. Here the purpose of performative energy is not to produce sound, but rather to form the physical states associated with these sounds whilst maintaining silence. For example, a fortissimo event in negative dynamics refers not to perceived volume but, to the experienced physical state of the performer. A certain amount of air, diaphragmatic pressure, position of the glottis etc. are to be activated and performed on the razors edge between sound and silence. When sound inevitably results, adjustments are to made to revert to silence. The resulting fragile utterances, imbibed with a self-referential, kinetic imprint, convey a struggle rendered audible.


To develop this “struggle” the score is fitted with an additional animated parameter which calls for the performer [who is holding an iPad with the video score] to rapidly follow an animation. They are to follow the trajectory of an animated dot, adjusting their torso and head along with it. This is to destabilize and reorganize the vocal apparatus to incite moments of unpredictable failure. 

Score Excerpts 

 © 2020 by Ryan Carraher

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Composer :: Guitarist :: Improviser