Program Notes

Apparitions of The Four Pillars in The Midwinter Starfield Symmetry under The 72:81:88 Confluence | 16 II 09


Apparitions of The Four Pillars...

as presented here tonight exists simultaneously in four realms: The ever-present sine wave drone, the sound we are making as performers, the video and light environment, and the way these vibrations organize themselves in this room, tonight, at this moment.

Since 2010 my work has been concerned with a single set of harmonies I composed in 2009 called The Four Pillars: four types of intervals, exponential multiples of 3, 7, 9 and 11, that can be drawn from pure overtone ratios of a single fundamental frequency.

The full title Apparitions of The Four Pillars in The Midwinter Starfield Symmetry under The 72:81:88 Confluence in a setting of Quadrilateral Starfield Symmetry A:L Base 11:273 in The 181 Profusion refers directly to these four realms.

The Midwinter Starfield Symmetry under The 72:81:88 Confluence

Made up of 24 sine waves tuned as pure ratios to a 72 Hz fundamental frequency, the sine wave drone is our constant, the fabric from which we can weave improvisations and the defining characteristic of the harmonic structure of this work. Where all of my previous sine wave compositions (and, indeed, the sine wave composition heard during the installation hours of this festival, The Eternal 27:28 Triple Octave Displacement under The 72:81:88 Differential Apparition) had contained elements which changed over time, with this new symmetrical sine wave composition, there is no change: The sine waves as you walk in the door are the same as those when you leave, it is our relationship to them that has been changed.

The symmetrical nature of this sine wave composition is such that, if condensed to a single octave, the interval classes would be repeated in the upper and lower tetrachord, with the 11th harmonic acting as a dividing point. This arrangement was originally devised as the kernel of a piano tuning, but has proved to be a powerful, transparent, and supportive drone in which to perform. The pitches themselves are arranged intuitively around a central octave to provide the most valuable information for the musicians to develop their tuning to an extremely high level.

The 72:81:88 Confluence refers to those ratios, at the top of the audible range of the drone. Over the summer of 2015, I had the great honor of helping to install and maintain Dia 15 VI 13 545 West 22 Street Dream House by La Monte Young, Marian Zazeela, and Jung Hee Choi, my longtime teachers, mentors, and Guru. The visionary example set by Young has been instrumental to my development as a composer. On July 28, 2015, during the run of this installation at the Dia Art Foundation, I was seated in the center of the room for a dress rehearsal of Young's The Melodic Version of The Second Dream of The High-Tension Line Stepdown Transformer from The Four Dreams of China. In this work, each pitch is intimately tied to the harmonic whole of the composite waveforms, only introducing the most radical pitch of the work once it has been fully established as a combination tone among the performers. The simple power of this compositional principle is immediately evident when one hears this work live. The vibrations set up by the superficially simple unison that opens, and anchors, this work sets the stage for the careful development of the full Dream Chord. The Second Dream... is music of the absolute highest order; deeply profound and powerfully moving. After the first full rehearsal of the work that I heard, I felt a complete change in my thinking. The four tones of this work are so powerful, they obliterated everything I knew about music, forcing me to reconsider my motivations and methods.

I began to deeply reflect on the combination tones of The Four Pillars and how they could best help elucidate the harmonic material I am interested in exploring. I realized that a section of the tuning – the pitches 9:8, 81:64, and 11:8 above the fundamental – would, if brought into the correct octave, create 7:9:16 as difference tones, which perfectly outlines what I had always considered to be the core of this work, the 7:8:9 relationship. In this work, the triad 72:81:88 is given space to become a definitive aspect of the composition, working in parallel to 7:8:9 to develop a rich composite waveform unlike anything I've worked with before, setting up acoustic phenomena that resonate discreetly at each point in the room in combination with the live performance.

Apparitions of The Four Pillars

The live performance consists of a carefully orchestrated series of chord changes. The full work came to me suddenly, as if in a dream, while at a rehearsal of Raga Darbari by Young's Just Alap Raga Ensemble. I immediately wrote down the chords and even an early version of the palindromic structure of the work. The kernel for this new composition came as I was working on the 2015 installment of Apparitions.... That year we, for the first time, removed the delay lines that had been a defining aspect of the work. When we removed the delays, and the layers they created, we were left with just the starkness of the tuning itself. For this new composition, I realized that by further restricting the octaves available to us as performers we would be able to focus more completely on the intervallic relationships without the interference of octave transpositions or any sort of need for virtuosity.

I am primarily interested in making work that highlights the inherent beauty and profound intervallic relationships of the harmonic series. My work unfolds at a glacial pace, treating time as a defining factor in thematic development and as a tool for the precise tuning of pure intervals. Focusing on these relationships over extended durations alters the listener's perception of time and space.

Video and Light

I conceived of a new set of video works in response to the performances by R. Andrew Lee of my The Four Pillars Appearing from The Equal D.... For that work Oscar H Scott had created a new video based on blue frequencies and the shapes and movement of the aurora borealis. I have been interested in astral imagery for some time now in relation to The Four Pillars and an idea came to me that abstracted this imagery further.

I was inspired by Marian Zazeela's quadrilaterally symmetrical calligraphic work, particularly her Quadrilateral Phase Angle Transversals, and her work Magenta Day / Magenta Night as realized for Dia 15 VI 13 545 West 22 Street Dream House which included a new color I had not experienced before, Congo Blue. This blue suffused the space with a truly otherworldly vibration that was deeply affecting. I developed a video concept in response to this feeling that is now my primary visual interest.

For Quadrilateral Starfield Symmetry A:L Base 11:273 in The 181 Profusion I use relevant star signs to trace a free-form set of spirals. Those spirals are set into motion, rotating at constant rates. This moving form is then mirrored quadrilaterally and set to slowly cross quadrants. The video is projected through a dichroic filter which brings the work into a pure blue spectrum, and the light in the space is filtered by Kryssy Wright using Lee 181, Congo Blue. Each aspect of the timing and the number of spirals is related to the tuning of The Four Pillars, so, while the work does not actively react to the music, its movements are intimately related, creating a continuous whole in sound and light.

This performance is dedicated with eternal vibrations to my gurus, Khan Sahib La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela.


Written to accompany the world premiere of Apparitions of The Four Pillars in The Midwinter Starfield Symmetry under The 72:81:88 Confluence in a setting of Quadrilateral Starfield Symmetry A:L Base 11:273 in The 181 Profusion at the 2016 Avant Music Festival