About this Recording
8.573428 - STANILAND, A.: Talking Down the Tiger / Dreaded Sea Voyage / Flute vs Tape / Still Turning / True North (Scott, MacDonald, Watts, Uitti, Halladay)
English  French 

Andrew Staniland (b. 1977)
Talking Down the Tiger and other works for solo instruments and electronics

 

Talking Down the Tiger (2010)

Composing Talking Down the Tiger was one of the rare times where both the title for the piece and the musical ideas came simultaneously. For me, percussion is a metaphorical tiger: possessing all at once ferociousness, beauty, and mystery. Many percussion instruments (and percussionists) exhibit their most interesting and expressive sounds at the pianissimo dynamic register, which is at odds with the type of heavy-handed writing often associated with percussion. In this piece I wanted to explore a journey from a wild and ferocious sound world that gradually recedes into a mystical and beautiful sound world lying beneath. The work is in one continuous movement with two large divisions, the first marked “Crazy!” and the second marked “Beautiful”, and involves live electronics in the form of looping. Looping is a standard electroacoustic practice that involves sound capture and repeating playback, which I expand to reflect the compositional logic of the piece. The looper I designed, dubbed the stanilooper, is capable of a number of unusual looping functions that match the pitch and rhythmic material of the percussion. The electronics extend the sound of the percussionist in both space and time, diffusing over multiple speakers. The work was commissioned by percussionist Ryan Scott, with assistance from the Toronto Arts Council.

Dreaded Sea Voyage (2013)

“Stephen Hawking says we must flee Earth”
Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking says the human race faces extinction unless people leave Earth” The Toronto Star, 30th July, 2013

For several months, Mahler had been living in half-acknowledged dread of the impending sea voyage
Gustav Mahler: Volume 3. Vienna: Triumph and Disillusion (1904-07) by Henry-Louis de La Grange

Around the time that I was composing this work, Voyager was, according to NASA, finally exiting our solar system after some 36 years. On Voyager is a special golden record containing music from Earth. The selections are diverse, ranging from the first movement of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, to the music of Javanese court gamelan. As point of departure, I picked a few of the Voyager record excerpts and transcribed them into a computer scoring program. I then began modulating different pieces together using an extrapolated Frequency Modulation technique, sort of breeding one measure of a piece with a measure from another. Out of this process (incidentally, from Bach’s Brandenburg and Mozart’s Queen of the Night) came several fascinating chords that became points of harmonic gravity in the writing process. In addition to amplified classical guitar, this piece uses prepared digital sound files. The sound sources are diverse, however it is notable that there are samples from two of my previous electroacoustic works, including from True North, where I re-sample the “big band hit” that appears at the end of the piece, and use it several times at the climax of Dreaded Sea Voyage. There are three main sections: Stephen Hawking Says we Must Flee Earth, Gravity Pulls us Down, and Dreaded Sea Voyage. The work was commissioned by Daniel Cooper for guitarist Rob MacDonald.

Flute vs Tape (2012)

Flute vs Tape was originally conceived as a capricious flute duet, or perhaps even a flute contest. Flute vs Tape is an arrangement of the work for single flute, with the second flute part realised as a fixed electronic “tape” track (tapes have been replaced by digital sound files, but the name persists). The acoustic version is written to be virtuosic, capricious, competitive, and fun, meant to stand in contrast with the reams of contemporary art music that are perhaps too often devoid of these traits. The fixed electronics embrace this same approach and perhaps even maximise it. I use many vivacious sounds and techniques in the composition of the electronics, including sampling, gritty hip-hop drum beats, electric guitar (my own instrument), and bodhran drum, an instrument nearly synonymous with Newfoundland, the place of my current residence. Flute vs Tape was commissioned by and dedicated to flautist Marie-Helene Brault.

Still Turning (2011)

Still Turning is scored for solo cello and electronics, and is the third of three related pieces: the others being Solstice Songs (commissioned by the Gryphon Trio) and The River is Within Us, (commissioned by Duo Concertante). All three works share musical and poetic themes, and were composed sequentially in the spring, summer, and fall of 2011. As with The River is Within Us, the title of this piece is derived from T.S. Eliot’s famous poem Four Quartets. The phrase Still Turning captivated me with the idea of one being simultaneously still in the present moment while at the very same time in motion, such as the experience of stillness on earth while the earth is rotating at incredible velocity. It is a duality that is musically inspiring—understanding sound and its perception can be infinitely complex, yet a single note can hang in the air at just the right place and time, and appear pure, and perhaps even beautifully simple. Musically, the work is a single movement for cello and electronics in three large divisions: lyrical, toccata, and still in dream-like suspension. The electronics, in the form of sound-file playback, appear at the end of the work, featuring some sampled memories from Solstice Songs and The River is Within Us. The spoken text at the very end was written and recorded by my long-time collaborator Jill Battson. The work was commissioned by Daniel Cooper and dedicated to cellist Frances Marie Uitti.

True North (2007)

True North is scored for soprano saxophone and electronics. Orientation points such as ‘north’ are often thought of as secure, objective places—however, they are in fact in a constant state of flux. Magnetic north is known to have moved over 1000 kilometres in the last century, and even true north (as defined by the position of Polaris) moves due to the changing of the earth’s axis. And such is the case with music—tastes and standards, what is popular and what is not, what is or is not a masterwork—while they seem static and even objective, are subject to similar swings and flux. Everything is moving—nothing is still. The score calls for the performer to play within a circle of microphones aligned to the four magnetic compass points. Each microphone corresponds to a speaker in a surround sound system, giving spatialization control directly to the performer. The accompanying electronics feature live processing and sound file playback featuring many nonmusical sounds: oil dripping, door ajar alarms, and automobile engines trying and failing to start. There is also a cameo recording of a well known (but secret) Canadian Opera star. True North was written for saxophonist Wallace Halladay with funding from the Canada Council for the Arts.

Andrew Staniland


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