Pace (2017)

for flute, oboe, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, percussion, viola, and cello

The idea for Pace was born as I stumbled downstairs from a lecture on the music of Conlon Nancarrow, my stiff legs still reminding me of the race I had run two days earlier.

American-Mexican composer Nancarrow wrote much of his music for player piano to explore complex rhythmic interactions beyond the perceptual limits of the human mind, only realizable by machine.However, his music has since been transcribed for chamber ensembles such as Alarm Will Sound. Live performances of Nancarrow will necessarily enliven the mechanical steadiness of the originals with subtle human irregularities. Pace begins with a steady rhythmic groove, with faster rhythms gradually layering on top of it, subtly transforming it, and eventually threatening to overwhelm it.

The act of running weaves a multilayered network of rhythms: breathing, heartbeat, footfalls. These patterns, all of which have subtle variations of their own, may synchronize or conflict with each other. As a race progresses, they may (intentionally or unintentionally!) speed up or slow down, shifting the resulting interactions into new combinations. New rhythms may emerge in the consciousness or be submerged under more intense stimuli. With these ever-shifting networks of internal pulses, a runner will experience the same external landscape very differently near the end of a race than early on.

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