Ponte las Pilas
Interrupted in the Distant Past
Hymn for the Arc Harvester
The Ice is Breaking
Yan Ee Toh
Ponte las Pilas, or ‘Look Alive’ is a Latin-inspired work commissioned by the Sonido Sin Frontera trombone quartet. Its layered rhythms and dense harmonies put the listener at the forefront of a sonic party from start to finish. This piece doesn’t have a story. Instead, it is meant to remind the listener to ponte las pilas and get to it!
Interrupted in the Distant Past is my version of Bach borrowing. What do I mean by this? The composition takes components from a movement for flute and cello from my DMA document (2009) and melds it with a recent short solo cello piece (2021). This idea of compositional borrowing from oneself was a necessary job requirement for Bach! The conceptions of the two works are vastly different. The 2009 composition was created with small pitch sets as foundational elements. In addition to this, there is an interplay of similar timbral gestures between flute and cello. The 2021 composition is based on a 12-tone row from Luigi Nono’s “Il Canto Sospeso.” What I found intriguing was how easily these two separate works worked together. While I did have to add things to the music, I found that little to nothing had to be removed. The title pays homage to the two works in that the new elements tend to interrupt or disturb the flow of the musical elements composed in the distant past (2009).
Hymn for the Arc Harvester is for seven or more pitch-based instruments. Players may play any combination of instruments that have the ability to play pitch. This work uses unspecified pitch in its entirety. The music is notated on single-line staves. Performers may choose pitch content for these pitches while conforming to the general contour of the line, as indicated by placement of note heads relative to the horizontal line. The middle line should be considered the mid-range for the instrument. The work evokes a rigorous metrical vitality in which all instruments explore pitch freely within a steadfastly unison rhythmic space. The title is a reference to an ancient, mythological creature who aided farmers in their annual harvest through its natural metamorphoses into various forms which brought about changes in weather patterns. Hymn for the Arc Harvester was composed for the 2019 Southeastern Contemporary Ensemble and was premiered by the ensemble on March 19th, 2019.
The Ice is Breaking employs bassoon multiphonics throughout to create a very harmonically unstable sound world. The title is multifaceted, partially referring to issues such as global warming, the glacial pace of the work, and unavoidably even the 1912 sinking of the Titanic, as the opening multiphonic is one often referred to as the "foghorn effect." The "ice" does not have to be literal, though, as some of the harmonically dense multiphonics attempt to either evoke or provoke visceral reactions and thoughts. For as much as this piece may be a subtle statement about our current world, that world may be a lot more local and interior. It depends on how you feel: is the ice breaking? Or for your circumstances, have you broken the ice? What would happen... if it broke?
flux /flʌks/ n. constant change and movement; irregularity, unpredictability, instability; a flowing mass. | n. the rate of transfer of fluid, particles, or energy through a surface or substance (Physics) | n. a state of uncertainty about what should be done (usually following some important event) preceding the establishment of a new direction of action | flux /flʌks/ v. to melt, liquify; to amalgamate. | v. to make or become fluid.