Tempo: Conversational

Visual music compositions, 2011

Three musical pieces that explore the affordance of words as a form of expression and use the sound of language as the basis for composition.

These pieces were performed by students from The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music as part of the programming for the month-long exhibit, DisFluency. Informed by Christian Marclay’s Zoom Zoom as well as John Coltrane’s Psalm, the three pieces explore the affordance of words as a form of expression and use the sound of language as the basis for musical composition. Making use of a different system of organization and technique, each composition is in text form, and the performers interpret the text as musical notes, enacting the conversation through the sound of their instruments.

Words of the Day

Inspired by the dynamic narrative lectures given by Nicholas Fortugno and my own readings of William Burroughs’s The Ticket That Exploded, I developed a process for the piece, Words of the Day , using two newspapers, The Wall Street Journal and The New School Free Press. I cut out words representing specific actors and actions, arranged them into phrases, and indicated specific intonation and tonal details for each word (ex. rising tone, falling tone, etc).

Instructions: Interpret each phrase using the intonation noted above each word.

A Way With Words

A Way With Words is based loosely on traditional board games that use maps to provide choices that offer differing levels of reward and feedback. A list of sounds and words with strong sonic and figurative relationships were collected and then placed on a word map that provides unique rhythmic paths. The performers are free to interpret the tone and inflection for each word. The piece begins with each performer choosing a word to start, and each successive word must be connected to the previous word on the performance map. The length of the performance is determined by the performer(s).

Instructions: Each performer chooses a word to begin. The performer interprets that word as sound and is free to select the note and inflection. The following word must be connected to the previous word. Performance length is determined by performer(s).

Welcome Aboard

Welcome Aboard is based loosely on my own experiences of interviewing for jobs after graduating this May. The piece involves a dialogue between two persons, and the performers are to repeat the short piece as many times as they deem necessary. I’ve experimented with loops in purely sonic form in my previous musical pieces, so I had several versions of this piece that I read aloud.

Instructions: Each performer selects an actor. The performer interprets each word as sound and is free to select the note and inflection. Multiple performers per actor is encouraged. Repeat as desired, and stop at any portion of the reading. Performance length is determined by performers.

Tempo: Conversational
All pieces composed by Ryan Raffa
Performed by Ian Christensen, Ryan Beckley, and Zach Campbell

DisFluency Exhibit Performance Series
December 1, 8, and 15
Aronson Gallery, The New School

Here is a video from the December 1st performance: