College of Music Program Book 2011-2012: Ensemble & Other Performances, Volume 1 Page: 61
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PROGRAM NOTES (cont'd)
Joseph Martin Waters is an American classical composer known for writing chamber
ensemble and orchestral music that integrates electronic sounds that he performs via
laptop. He constructs virtual instruments that sound like they should exist (but don't), out
of sounds found everywhere in nature (including human nature) and is fond of integrating
elements of rock, jazz and world music into his classical pieces. He is most known in San
Diego as the composer of the 25th St. Bridge Chime Rail, a railing of 480 tuned chimes
that span 1-94. It comprises a palindrome: walking along and striking the chimes produces
a long, somewhat spooky Danny Elfman-like melody that is the same played from either
direction. It is also, at 288 feet, most likely the largest metallophone in the world. His
style of composition is based in both the European classical as well as African (beat-based)
musical traditions. His works follow the line of American composers such as Gershwin,
Copland and Bernstein, who were concerned with writing multi-layered music--easy to
get hold of on first hearing, but also interlaced with hidden rooms and secret passageways
that are revealed upon multiple listenings.
Vivaldi Fireflies (2006) explores the blurring of boundaries between hierarchically-nested,
perceptual time scales. In other words, humans (and to various extents all animals) organize
their placement in time by ordaining multiple, simultaneous, self-similar time scales at
concentric levels of magnitude. (For example we organize our lives at the level of a specific
minute, which is defined by its placement within a specific hour, within a specific day,
within a specific week, within a specific year, within a specific decade, within a specific
century, within a specific millennia, etc.). Our simultaneous, intuitive knowledge of the
placement of each moment upon multiple time cycles lends solidity and context to our
sense of the world. Music behaves in much the same way, on a miniature level. Most genres
of contemporary folk music employ at least seven hierarchical, self-similar time levels.
The idea for Vivaldi Fireflies began with a simple contemplation: Might it be possible to
create a psychological illusion that a piece of music is perpetually speeding up, always in
accelerando, without actually ever changing tempo at all. (There is an analogous illusion
with pitch, in which a pitch seems to perpetually rise. But how would one accomplish this
with tempo?) Tempo, without exception, manifests in simultaneous "octaves and other
harmonics" (whole number multiples of the perceived pulse rate). Perpetual accelerando
would, therefore, require the smooth, continuous elision of one tempo level into another.
Had this happened in music previously? If not, why not? Are we hard-wired to maintain
strict quantum separation of discrete time levels? This is what Waters set out to explore
with Vivaldi Fireflies. Vivaldi Fireflies was premiered by violinist Felix Olschofka at the
Beethovenhaus in Bonn, Germany, on June 11, 2006.
Here’s what’s next.
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University of North Texas. College of Music. College of Music Program Book 2011-2012: Ensemble & Other Performances, Volume 1, book, 2012; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc114723/m1/62/: accessed February 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Music Library.