Mists

for stones and noise (1996)
versions for stone trio or solo or with audience participation
duration is 5′

Mists is a ritual audio piece for stones and computer noise originally created in 1995 as a piece for wind controller and percussion trio (for David Wetzel’s Masters Degree clarinet recital) but now arranged and performed in several forms. The piece utilizes masking and blurring properties of noise to create an audio screen through which the listener perceives/performs a multi-dimensional rhythmic structure created by stones. One of the key aspects of the piece is that the stones are gathered locally before the concert. Gathering the stones for Mists is an important part of the work and we never perform with imported stones. Mists has become one of my most successful and resilient pieces. It has been performed over 25 times in places such as New York, Oregon, The Netherlands, Canada, France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Lithuania, Seattle, Maryland and Massachusetts, all using stones collected from each performance site. A few of the stones featured in these performance include rocks from the Hudson River, rubble from ancient Paris, and slate from the Banff mountains. In 2009 as part of the SPILL exhibition commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the Exxon Oil Spill in Valdez, Alaska, the piece was performed daily by viewers using cleaned rocks from Exxon’s ecological disaster.

There are currently several possibilities for presentation.
1) The original version of the piece creates a specific three-dimensional rhythmic object inside the washes of noise. The stones (high, medium, and low) are sounded by striking two of a kind together. Each of the three performers maintain an independent rhythmic tempo (either with a click track or by ear). The relational tempi in the main section of the piece are derived from multiples of thirteen in the ratio 65 : 52 : 39. Accents are placed on every 13th beat of each voice. The metric macro-structure generated by the rhythmic process creates three points of convergence in the piece in which all voices simultaneously arrive on a strong beat. The score excerpt below is from this version. The noise is played back from the computer as a fixed media track, or with an interactive interface using a controller such as the wind controller.

2) The audience interaction version was first presented in the mysterious Grotte du Pertuis in Switzerland, an ancient Masonic Temple carved into a cliff and now used as a concert hall. In this version, each audience member chooses her/his stones upon entering the space and chooses an independent rhythmic pulse after meditating on the noise and community in the space. Each audience member attempts to find a personal tempo and move deeper into the noise. The activity creates a unique community rhythm and a state of mediation for the beginning of the concert.

3) The solo percussion version takes the trio score and interprets it freely, messing up the rhythms and obscuring the polyrhythm in more complex stone polyphony. The player should let the rocks influence the interpretation of the rhythm. I often include this version of the piece in my solo recitals.

score excerpt

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mists
Description
Mists score and electronics
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