visible light

for viola sola and electronics

Commissioned by Glenda Goodman

visible light was composed at the end of a seemingly endless 21-month writer’s block after the completion of my opera, beckett. In part, this hiatus was inspired by the usual post-partum depression one gets after finishing a large work, as well as being inspired by a deepening disgust with the “academicization” of contemporary art-music. (I will be sensitive in this brief polemic not to describe the word “academic.” Please use discresion, as well as, please fill in the gaps.) Post-partum blues aside, it occurred to me during this time that “compositional” academia sees it’s music as the apex of biased teleology of musical history in which all music that does not emerge from it is inconsequential, like dust in cracks. This iconoclastic vision of art-music ultimately causes its own demise as well as its own atrophy. It is possible that some of the best music is being made outside of the institution as well as concert halls.

The truth is, I solved my writer’s block by making the conscious decision to reject academia. visible light emerges from this steadfast rejection of academic priniciples, in that it chooses to synthesize inconsequential music(s) with technology, et al.  The piece, like most of my pieces for tape and instrument(s), usually starts with composing the tape part first, or essentially, composing a field of resonance. Since the instrumental (live) part is composed later, the instrumental music is constantly in the process of reconstructing a deconstruction. One of the interesting characteristics, particularly in this piece, is that it uses only three samples: a chain of five viola harmonics, the sound of a train brake and a female voice reading a text. In the end, these samples blend together in a strange and ominous homogenous texture, which makes it impossible at times to determine which is which.

In the end, the piece is a chain of signifiers looking for a signified. I don’t believe they find one. The piece is presumably about light (particularly about tungsten light striking stainless steel and sunspots in a duststorm): yet it isn’t. The piece is about vacancy, regret, and urgency: yet it isn’t. The piece is about the plasticity of sample material and (re)constructions: but it isn’t. In the end, that which is not said is what is implied.

visible light was composed for and is dedicated to Glenda Goodman.


Viola Sola (amplified, if possible), Stereo Playback [with or without Discreet Click Track]


8 Minutes


18 November 2005
Glenda Goodman – Viola
The Juilliard School, Paul Hall
New York, NY