we are digested and become nothing here (2021)
for flute, oboe, bass clarinet, bassoon, tenor saxophone
Premiered by Divergent Quintet
In we are digested and become nothing here each performer is stratified into independent areas (e.g., breath pressure, embouchure position, lip tension, etc.) Each area is in constant transition between minimum and maximum points (e.g., loose tips to tight lips). The durations of these transitions are measured in number of breaths (e.g., transition from loose lips to tight lips in the span of 5.5 breaths). The performers have limited power over these physical flows. They are only able to change the duration or direction of one transition at a time. The area to be changed and the nature of the change is determined by a process of self-reflection and real-time adjustment.
The performers continually query themselves: “Which area have I allocated the least amount of attention to?” Or “Which area is causing me the greatest amount of physical discomfort?” In order to isolate a single area. The identified area is then compared with another active area by asking “Is the identified area transitioning faster than the referent?” (e.g., “is my transition between degree of lip tension progressing faster than my breath pressure transition?”) An adjustment, dependent on the performer’s answer, is then applied and the process begins once again. Extreme kinesthetic sense and concentration are required in order to perceive the subtle relations between bodily areas and mentally bookkeep the fluid collection of independent flows.
I like to think of the image of a plate spinner with their attention ceaselessly shifting from plate to plate. In any one moment, a specific plate may be unstable relative to the others. The perceived danger of the plate falling directs the attention of the performer to this particular plate. Attention leads to assessment (reflection) which results in modification (preservation).