Date Completed: Sept '14
Part of Series: f(f(x))
Score: Still working on it
Recording: This piece is presented in full
on my album BABEL fragments
This video goes into a bit of detail about both the title and the piece itself:
As in a few of my BABEL pieces, the title spells out the word "Sheshach", instead of the word "Babel", in five different scripts. "Sheshach" is a town referred to in the Hebrew bible that is almost certainly just code (using something called the the Atbash cipher) for "Babel" or Babylon. In this case, the SH is an illegal, double-consonant use of Korean, the E is Greek, the SH is Futhark, the A is Ancient Mayan and the CH is Morse code. This is a jumbling of the same scripts used in the companion piece to this one, BABEL(maya). The f(f(3)) part of the title means this piece is the third in my f(f(x)) series as well. In this case, that means there are several melodies that contain themselves fractally, and the individual movements are themselves separate pieces inside the larger piece. Really, watch that video, it makes more sense there I think.
OK, I swear this is the last time I'll refer to the video, but I tried to give a good overview there:
The first movement is a duet for alto sax and trombone. It alternates between disjunct music meant to resemble attractors and strange attractors, and a stentorian tone row. In each iteration, the tone row has chunks torn out of it, mimicking the Cantor Set.
The second movement is a hot mess. Because it's a smaller BABEL piece inside the larger BABEL piece, it's in five sections, and the five sections themselves ape the forms of the five movements of the piece as a whole. The first section is initially for solo trombone with multiphonics and a plunger mute, but the saxophone gets added, in a section composed using Gregorian chant notation. This mimics the first movement instrumentation. The second chunk explodes with some electronic sounds followed by an army of trombones and saxophones. This is the opposte of a similar moment in the fifth movement of the BABEL(maya) companion piece, but also mirrors the second movement of this piece—which of course is the very movement you're listening to! The armies coalesce into single lines, and a briefly quiet bit is suddenly interrupted by an explosion of noise interspersed with modified cellos and clarinets. This foreshadows the clarinet/cello duet of the third movement, and simultaneously makes another version of the Cantor Set idea introduced in the first movement. The fourth section has live acoustic cello accompanied by electronics, a direct hint of the fourth movement. Finally, the acoustic clarinet replaces the cello and presents a diatonic scale that contains itself, much like the fifth movement will be for Ken and electonics and will have an electronic, self-containing chromatic scale. The last sound is Ken playing a melody using Ancient Greek notation.
The third movement is another acoustic duet, but this time for clarinet and cello. This movement was mostly written in Babylonian cuneiform notation (hence the minimalist intervals repeated in odd numbers). The score is a representation of an important graph of a fractal function that models predator/prey populations, which gradually splits into more and more forks until becoming entirely chaotic. The Greek melody from the end of the second movement also makes a few cameos.
The fourth movement is a PortRait piece for cello and electronics. It uses the same tone row from the first and fifth movements as well as the weird, disjunct "attractor" melodies like in the first.
The fifth and final movement is a PortRait piece for bari sax and electronics. It too has a lot of the same musical concerns as previous movements. It ends with a full-on, apeshit solo by Ken as he tries to rip a hole in the space-time continuum with multiphonics and screeches.
Like its companion piece, BABEL(maya), this piece took a very long time to complete. It was mostly the extremely self-referential second movement that took forever. When we went into the studio to record this piece for BABEL fragments Ken had to just play the parts I knew I would need. The actual movement was pieced together barely in time for mixing.
COMING SOON (maybe!)