THE GROVE

Many thanks to the Toronto Arts Council for the grant that facilitated the development of this unusual musical composition: a fantasy of mine since I got my first record player as a four-year old. The working title of the grant was “going over time,” the name for which will be explained below.

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ABOUT THE GRAPHIC IMAGE

Only the topmost leaves of each branch are active. Their color will change as the cursor moves over it, and clicking a top leaf causes it to begin falling and the music to begin playing. If you hit a second leaf before the present music concludes, it will begin a new piece. The previous leaf continues to fall but has no influence on the current track.

Each leaf is connected to the root by means of one or more branches, and each branch is connected to one of seven main trunks emanating from this single root. Each separate trunk begins with the same music (sometimes only a single note) but branches in different directions, each moving to a different end-leaf. A white “caterpillar” will begin to move up the trunk and onto each branch needed to reach the chosen leaf. The improvisation concludes as the “caterpillar” reaches the end point of that last branch.

THE SYMBOLS

The lightening bolt will restore the image to its original state, with all the end-leaves returned to their original place.

There is a pause icon [ || ], which toggles with a play icon. The music will continue from where it was paused.

Clicking on the square stops the progress of the music. Only one path will play at a time. Clicking a second leaf will stop the play of the first path.

ABOUT THE MUSIC: WHAT IT ALL MEANS AND WHY I DID THIS

I began improvising well before my first formal music lessons and have always been fascinated with the impending unknown. My interest in this feeling and my appreciation for the unfolding moment—the heightened excitement of wondering what will happen next—was sparked by many formative experiences in my youth. One of thee became the main influence on the undertaking of this project. As a child, I loved my vinyl collection, but there was one LP that, while it was not my favorite music, was the record which evoked the most compelling interest in sound and listening. It was a disc called, “Genie the Magic Record.”  The singer could “be” anything at all—a railroad train, an orchestra, anything!—and the succession of sounds was riveting to my young ears.  At the end of each side, the singer told me that if I put the needle back at the beginning, it would be something new … magic, of course. Well, it was new—a totally new record!—and I loved it because it was the only record I had which was not always the same as the last time it was played, and I loved it because it really called me to listen. Although I have concertized and recorded a fair bit, I have never wanted to release a recording of solo improvisation. I always felt that if improvised music arose in the unique moment, the recording should somehow also be unique on each hearing. How could each successive hearing of a recording bring something new?

 

I have an idea.

 

The idea was to observe and remember, as I played, the salient moments of creative bifurcation—the moments where two or more musical directions were felt, and major decisions were made in deciding the direction of the music. Being aware that one ‘road’ could be followed only at the expense of following any other, I wanted to try to go back to those points and try to play what might have happened, had a different direction been taken. Some of these moments of splitting led to two branches, while a few resulted in numerous branches. Occasionally a branch is simply a kind of continued growth, where a completed branch also bore an extension. And numerous branches had branchings of their own, in some cases up to five levels of branching.

Given the initially requested budget, it was not possible to make each bifurcation in the music link up precisely with a new branching point in the graphic image. That would have involved a major commitment of time for a coding expert. That might be a future project. The website, however, will provide a separate page of alternate audio tracks of each tree and its branches, along with a graphic image dedicated to providing the specific branch locations. About twenty additional improvisations have been used as stand-alones (with no branching) and they are displayed either as leaves of grass below or stars above.

So the listener now has access to a “piece” of music which at the outset bifurcates into seven trees, each of which then ramify into numerous alternate histories. This “Grove” is what I came to in trying to find Genie the Magic Record and create a work of improvisation which would be the “same piece” but rarely the same music.

Click on the image below to go to The Grove.

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Click Here for “The Grove”