Composition No. 57 is a slow pulse structure for the improvising creative orchestra that was composed in Woodstock, New York in the spring of 1976. The work was conceived as an effort to provide a unique sound space for the needs and challenge of the next time cycle. Composition No. 57 seeks to forward the ballade and slow pulse dynamics of creative discovery—for both the individual and collective orchestra. The challenge of the future must involve all that we know and feel, regardless of focus and context. Too often the concept of 'new' in this time period is used as a weapon that seeks to limit our ability to fully appreciate 'what is.' Composition No. 57 is a slow pulse sound environment structure that establishes space for breathing and introspection. This is a smooth sound contour environment that seeks to emphasize its own reality terms. The work is deliberately constructed as a light material environment that can be fitted to the needs of its interpreters. This is a tone poem kind of music state that makes use of slow-moving unison sound lines that define the nature of its sound space. In Composition No. 56 we can witness the division between high and low multiple and separate timbre dynamics—as this phenomenon moves to open the focus and sound character of the music. The principle 'sound' (feeling) of the work has to do with the use of light wind voicing decisions coupled with the use of 'accented' low instruments (i.e. unison bass marimba, string bass, two pianos) that forms a special center fiber for the music. This is a universe of opposition—in both its sound material and structural regions (sense). The spectrum scan of Composition No. 57 actualizes many different attitudes and responses—establishing on one end the realness of a ballade sound state that calls for the use of lyrical and traditional postulation, and on the other end (establishing) a powerful sound wall environment that is full and weighted. The combination of both states moves to give Composition No. 57 its own special hue and challenge. The work is dedicated to [blank]
Composition No. 57 is a continuum of sound and focus regions that is conceived as a unified intention. Emphasis in this environment is centered on the nature of phrase and sound connections—and what this phenomenon means for the overall presence (character) of the music. Phrase grouping dynamics in this context involves the use of both metric (even) and extended (arhythmic) construction specifics (design). Metric constructions in Composition No. 57 are the backbone of all tutti ensemble statements—and the material is also used as a sound curtain that contains its own special secrets. The use of the directive permeates the vibrational character of the music and gives the music a special drawn-out quality that is also brooding. The use of arhythmic grouping constructions is pitted against the sound state to expand the depth of the music because Composition No. 57 establishes several different levels of material dynamics—for the ensemble, for specific 'spots' in the structure and for the individual. Each of these categories dictates its own special strategies (and purposes). But it is important to not overstate these matters and give the wrong interpretation (impression) about this music because Composition No. 57 is not an expansive continuum of dynamic structures that consists of two thousand pages of worked out formulas. On the contrary, this is a short structure—a moment conceived as an impression that might be relevant. All structural decisions (and ingredients) in this work must be viewed from that context as well.
Composition No. 57 is a material structures for the creative orchestra that can be flexibly utilized and approached. The composite form of the work is A B (B2) (A2) C - D. Section A consists of five phase grouping statements that contain a blend of fixed and open improvisation. This material is played in unison by the bass marimba and vibraphone in an open sound field that also contains percussion improvisation (on the cymbals, to create a light textural sound state). Section A establishes the opening reality of the music as a peaceful and expansive (deep) terrain of involvement. This state is one half of the composite identity of the music. In Section B we are introduced to the first use of unison quarter note phrase (note groupings) as the first indication of the extended structural character of the music (in its material sense). The concept of this section involves the use of extreme (top and bottom) sound beam constructions that serve as 'pillars' in the sound space. This material (material type) is the principal ensemble fabric of the composite music—in both its static (principal focus) sense—as in the case in Section B—or in its active sense (when used as a shield that positions—affects—simultaneous solo improvisations) as in the case of Section D. All of the written ensemble material that comprises this work—B, C and D—can be viewed as one extended statement that expresses one essential attitude. I conceived this material in terms of how it visually looked (sounded) moving across the space of the sound canvas. A given interpretation of this material can be elastically stretched to emphasize particular 'points' in the sound space. What this means is that the conductor has the opportunity in Composition No. 57 to become involved in the 'moment dynamics' of the music. This option is essential to the purpose and success of the work. Composition No. 57 was conceived as a relevant vehicle for the next cycle of the music that promotes responsibility and involvement.
Composition No. 57 is constructed as a sound environment structure that establishes terms for both collective and solo improvisation. The instrumentalist in this sound universe is expected to reach for new levels of creative insight and sensitivity. Collective improvisation in this regard involves the special challenge of linear and ballade-like formations (ideas) that interconnect into every level of the music. Composition No. 57 is conceived as a dynamic forum for creative interpretation—for both the individual (and the need for self realization and perceived truth) and the orchestra (or the collective truth). There are no super-charged roles in this sound state (at least as an affirmation of one given individual life as the 'saying goes'), rather the challenge of Composition No. 57 involves the subtle realness of sharing something (from the community—or the family). In Section C there are five related time cue 'moments' (constructed events) that determine time regulation and/or instrumental combinations. Events in this context are organized (interrelated) into the structural wall of the music in staggered time slots that expand the perception of continuity (or moment continuance). What this means is that Composition No. 57 moves as a relative state structure whose contours are blurred (as a structural consideration). To experience the reality of this effort is to transcend any one concept of 'change' (or 'growth'). Composition No. 57 is a slow (explosive) ballade-like sound state that contains its own relationship with 'the space.'
Section D is the last primary section of Composition No. 57 before the music moves into the 'open space' (interpretation). The reality of this section was conceived as a response to the light texture (vibrational) nature of the previous structures in the work. This is a heavy and full sound state that can be executed by itself (as a creative statement that involves the use of long metric phrase sound columns that push into the surface of the music) or as a sound environment structure that serves as a backdrop to extended solo excursions. Section D consists of two quarter note phrase grouping statements that are separated by a short pause. The first statement is a twenty-three note grouping that can be stretched and emphasized in accordance with the needs of the moment, and the second statement is a twelve-note grouping (that extends the focus of the music in a material and vibrational sense). All of this activity is seated on top of long low sound beams (lines) generated by the pianos (low inside strings—and notes) and mallet percussion (cymbals). When this section is established the music flows into open improvisation—'like a wave being pushed back into the sea.' Composition No. 57 starts as an intimate refrain (from two instruments with light percussion) and ends as an attitude (whose actual ingredients are made new each interpretation and/or performance). The reality of this forum is but a shadow of a music.
Composition No. 57 is a dynamic structural universe of shapes and focuses that was conceived as a musical state. The work is scored for nineteen (to twenty-two) instrumentalists (it can also have two separate soloists—from the prescribed instrumentation in the score—as well as an additional percussionist—or two, if desired) and can be used by ensembles from many different tendencies (or traditions). The instrumentation of this work—in its most basic design—is three flutes, clarinet, bass clarinet, four trumpets, three trombones, tuba, bass marimba and vibraphone, percussion, string bass and two pianos (played in the inside and outside). Composition No. 57 was composed in moment time without any overstructural dictates in either its harmonic or rhythmic decisions. I approached the work as a vibrational state whose contour and feeling were more important than its actual notes (pitches). With this effort I wanted to establish a 'mood' as the dominant personality (as opposed to a sound approach or relationship). Composition No. 57 was conceived in conjunction with five other structures that would form the material for a recording date. On that occasion I chose to solo on the flute in the first section of the music and later changed to contra bass saxophone (in duo with Roscoe Mitchell who played bass saxophone in Section D). All of these matters can be flexibly approached—with respect to each ensemble's instrumentation and soloist preferences. The score of the work can be viewed as the first initiation result of the music (i.e. what was written—conceived—and what took place in the actual music as it came to life). My hope is that all future performances will contain their own idiosyncracies. Flexibility in this context is important to the actual music.