102nd & Amsterdam


AN INTERESTING ASPECT of returning to an older work for a recording project is that one returns to a work's history, its biography, in anticipation of a final rendering, an official version with about as much durability as one might hope for. During the course of this piece's performative life, it has been accompanied by a quite brief program note, one almost stereotypically avoiding any discussion of the pieces form or affect, focusing rather on inspiration and intent:

102nd & Amsterdam is dedicated to my father, Raymond Boyce; this was the first of many New York addresses for him. My father’s stories of growing up in New York in the 40’s and 50’s cemented in my mind the idea of New York as The City, an idea strengthened by my own relocations and peregrinations. My father is a wonderful, if diffuse, storyteller, with many narrative elements being developed, abandoned, rediscovered and sometimes corrected; while writing this piece, I thought often of his kaleidoscopic rhetoric, not merely episodic, and yet open and unbounded.

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And this is a fair statement– the piece has unity in harmony and to a lesser degree motive, but its general affect is change, progress, flux. The form is dialogic, rather than than episodic, and the musical surface is the skein between dunamis and entelecheia, from potentiality to actuality and fulfillment. The hyletic substrate is largely a field of rhythmic play: metrical shifts; contrapuntal interactions, and transformations of rhythmic density. There is a sense of the open, but it is Lutoslawskian rather than improvised— breathing not counting, frames and ornamented unisons, dynamic mixed meter; pulses open, closed, forming and dissolving.

This approach is fundamentally Modern, showing a a certain kind of disruptive momentism. Seeking a perpetual awareness that, unlike the Expressionism, is more phenomenologic than it is emotional, hyletic (and so on the cusp of the Real, rather than pulling towards an emotional interiority). This approach marks a path towards form, winding through Husserl's retention and protention and ending comfortably in James' specious present. The event only happens with in the past and the future, and in its becoming/having-been enables a construction of a Now.

As with much of my music, before and after, it is a music with corners, even if those corners don't quite lead to where you thought you were headed. Chronos is deceitful, complicit in the disruptions of Aion, and weakly fading as order is reasserted. Time's becoming takes two gods, because time does not instantiate itself. It is a product of action of Da-sein, and Da-sein is crafty, trying new strategies for new understandings and stubborn, holding with holding what has become dear to it.

In the time I have come to realize is that the true play is the play of memory; homo ludens plays within rules, ADOPTS those rules. In making them its own, it moves from the general to the particular, from the game to a game. True generative play requires the imagination of potential futures and the memory of both the immediate past and deeper pasts.

Gadamer shows us that Husserl's pro- and re-tentions are also forejudgement and re-presentation. The Now is not manifest through creative action, but hermeneutic agency. The aspiration to be that "writer of history with the gift of setting alight the sparks of hope in the past." In the case of the arts, the concern with technique, which allows for the genius, the craftsman, the scholar, as well as the hierophant and the mystagogue. Adoption empowers, and also sets obligations. Sorge as retelling and retelling and retelling reveals the player to be homo curator.

It is here that I understand more fully the place of my storytelling father in the work– his is a retelling of a being within which I was never present. The profound personal, geographic, and cultural changes experienced by and undertaking by are accompanied by interest in the preservation (through re-presentation) of the past - this is bringing historicity into that well lit grove.

It also makes me think of the radicality of this position – it is an acknowledgement of a perpetually transforming world of flux, but speaks to the role of critical agency in moving the world forward. Though rooted in faith, it is not rooted in knowledge. It echoes Peirce: "Where is the real, the thing independent of how we think it, to be found? There must be such a thing, for we find our opinions constrained; there is something, therefore, which influences our thoughts, and is not created by them."

Peirce ran towards logic and his signs as the foundation of memory; I move towards memory first, towards a trust in the conditionality of being, in memory and its imperfect continuations of Being.

This work was premiered by counter)induction on Sept. 9th 2005 at the Tenri Cultural Institute, New York. by counter)induction, an ensemble with whom I have been most closely associated since its formation in 1999. This recording features members of the Aeolus Quartet.