Program notes

Robot Ghost

Listening to Röckdöts is supposed to feel like drinking from a firehose—a liquid onslaught of ever-changing sounds, rhythms, and ideas, with faint (and not-so-faint) echoes of popular music, jazz, Zappa, Nancarrow, Brahms, and, in the second movement, the medieval troubadours. The old gods are dead and everything is now permitted and so the obvious thing is to try to do everything all at once.

"Oh Yeah, Oh Yeah, Oh Yeah" is the most rock-influenced of the three movements, in a style that I call “continuous exposition.” The music has large paragraphs each with its own energy trajectory, moving smoothly from one idea to another, but with relatively little in the way of obvious recapitulation. You’re supposed to feel like it all makes sense, somehow, even though you can’t quite explain how you got from start to finish.

"The Middle Age" begins as a traditional slow movement, drawing inspiration from various medieval styles. In writing the movement I created a little computer program that acted as a “medieval sampler”: at the touch of a key it played a tiny random excerpt from a collection of 400 early-music sources. Repeating the key repeated the excerpt, while new keys generated new excerpts. Many of the ideas in the piece began as improvisations on this strange meta-instrument.

"Robot Ghost" was inspired by my four-year old son’s idea for a Halloween costume, which itself epitomized the ethic of never settling for just one idea. The main character is bumbling and awkward, but capable of some fair serious spookiness when provoked.

Röckdöts was commissioned and premiered by the Third Coast Percussion Quartet.

Instrumentation: Percussion Quartet

Performer: Third Coast Percussion