A Natural History of Vacant Lots
version for solo percussion and electronics(2019)
|Commission||A Natural History of Vacant Lots was co-commissioned by Miller Theatre at Columbia University and Third Coast Percussion’s New Works Fund. |
This solo version was commissioned by a consortium of percussionists lead by Andy Meyerson and Chris Sies.
|Premiere||Quartet Version March 29, 2018
by Third Coast Percussion
at Miller Theatre at Columbia University New York, NY |
Solo version by Andy Meyerson on January 6, 2019 at 1 Rivington St, New York City
|Instrumentation||Solo Percussion and Electronics|
1 Vibraphone (with motor)
2 Medium Sizzle Cymbals (with a very long decay)
Pieces of metal:
3 Metal pipes made of galvanized steel (1 inch width) (sounding as written)
3 Glockenspiel Bars (sounding two octaves higher)
5 Crotales (sounding two octaves higher)
Ear piece for click track
The piece may be amplified, but it is not necessary.
I did not walk here all the way from prose
To make corrections in red pencil
I came here tonight to open you up
To interference heard as music
—Ben Lerner, from Mean Free Path
Having discarded several more bathetic titles, A Natural History of Vacant Lots struck me as the perfect analogy for my new piece composed for Third Coast Percussion. The piece draws its title from a book by Matthew Vessel and Herbert Wong which, true to its title, describes the secondary florae and faunae that grow as in abandoned lots. Subtitled “ambient music for percussion quartet and electronics,” the work begins in an unusually stark manner—single notes struck on two vibraphones (one with motor; one without) against an electronic soundtrack of the same pitch.
Much of the piece grows out of this initial note, first becoming a chorale, then slowly transforming into a dense forest of figuration over a period of about nine minutes. Though the growth of the material is extremely gradual, the things that emerge from the cycle of chords are sometimes surprising and travel quite far from the original material.
Around the time I was composing this piece, I had the pleasure of viewing photographs from the series “Intimate Portraits” by Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, a beautiful series of black-and-white self-portraits of the artist, nude, and in near darkness. Deeply inspired by the emotional vulnerability of these photographs, I began to imagine a connection to the way my work could be performed. Since the precise alignment of live and electronic components of Natural History would require the musicians to play to play to click tracks, I also wondered if there was a way to use this technology as more than a simple performance aid—to work in musical events that would instead be intrinsically linked to it. is could allow me to separate the performers as far apart from one another as physically possible while maintaining perfectly rhythmic ensemble playing—creating a physical analog to Moutoussamy-Ashe’s barren photographic compositions.
– Christopher Cerrone