...blood blossoms...amplified bass clarinet, amplified piano, percussion, electric guitar, amplified cello, amplified bass (2002)
|Premiere||May 15, 2002 by the Bang on a Can All-Stars at Paine Hall, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA|
“The old junky found a vein...blood blossoms in the dropper like a Chinese flower..” pg. 84, Naked Lunch, William F. Burroughs
I can’t believe that this piece is twenty-years old now. Writing for the Bang on a Can All-Stars presented an exciting opportunity to compose a chamber work which included electric guitar (which was my main instrument growing up), as back then, in the early 2000s, it was still rather rare to use instruments that were more conventionally associated with vernacular musics as many colleagues were still invested in Bourdieuian cultural stratifications – i.e. sonic affordances that pointed to the vernacular were often viewed with disdain.
One of the many things I love about the electric guitar is the viscerality it projects aided by amplification and distortion. Felt as much as heard, the amplified, distorted, electric guitar is a spectral instrument – the amplification facilitates the audibility of complex upper harmonics and frequencies. The ensemble is orchestrated around the sounds I knew the electric guitar could unleash (e.g. the “distorted” melody the bass clarinetist hums through the body of the instrument, a roughness that pairs nicely with fast harmonics being played on the electric guitars - well, at least, I like it!). That’s the thing, I wrote sounds I wanted to hear, not delimited to the sounds I felt I was supposed to write as a composer. But that was twenty years ago. I am happy to see that some things have changed.
Amplification helps facilitate subtle sounds too. The Burroughs text, quoted above, made me think that beauty can be found in a medium full of potential power and destruction. In writing for an amplified ensemble, I also sought to create delicate textures that played against the insipient power of amplification and distortion.
– Ken Ueno