Benjamin Boretz/J.K. Randall


O P E N S P A C E 1 3

Benjamin Boretz

J. K. Randall
UN(-) (1999)

Composed for chamber orchestra (at the invitation of Luis Garcia-Renart and the Woodstock Chamber Orchestra, which performed it in fall 1999), following (relevantly) the composition, performance and publication of Music, as a Music (The Open Space Magazine, Issue 1, Spring 1999).


Black /Noise I (1998)

Echoic/Anechoic documented a 1997 piano playing, then computer-processed in strenuously segregated segments to become Black /Noise I (/Noises II and III are text-sound video pieces incorporating /Noise I as sound material).

 For commentary, the following will do just fine.

—Benjamin Boretz

one of those
2mvmt. middleBeethoven
pianosonatas in E/F/F#
not G
mvmt. I Untitled
mvmt. II Time, Forward!


It’s All Yours / a note on GAP6
remember that confirmation hearing——think back a ways——where some senator declared that “mediocrity, too, deserves representation”?
Well I’ve one-upped him.
Late on in mvmt.2, I aimed for stupid. (: the tired note; the flubbed gesture; the frumpy rhythm (——but deadpan; at low temperature; gentle; no horselaughs; no burlycue; with sympathy almost))
I even wrote “Quintessence of Stupid” into the score as a performance direction.
From day 1, Martin played it great.
But “Quintessence of Stupid” didn’t click with him. So we talked it over.
We settled on “The Higher Doodling”.
Months go by.
Recording Session.
More months go by.
I play the edited tape for Steve Mackey.
Steve, unbidden, zeros in right there: “Ah! What a beautiful melody!——it’s sort of got an antique flavor to it.”
So we’ve got Me composing Q of S, Martin playing the HD, Steve hearing an AF, and me feeling no pain: a Cozy, Wholesome vignette.

In which all Philosophy is Immanent.
(Which stimulates speculation)
1.Music is vague.
2.Music is sharp as a tack. People differ.
3.These guys aren’t smart enough to get the message.
4.These guys aren’t Stupid enough.
5.I just don’t have what it takes to deliver the message.
6.Ain’t no message: just soundpatterns awaiting perception.
7.Ain’t no message: just an airborne Material Being, requesting infusion of an Animating Soul (namely, Yours——or yours——or yours——or yours——)
(That “Stupid” headset still cuts the mustard with me: when I tried to delve back in & purge some flab, I almost
couldn’t:——why?——because I couldn’t quite re-enter that Stupid Feel. And without it I wasn’t with it.)
You’ll probably figure which passage we’re talking about.
But don’t worry about it.
What I mostly wanted to explain about was a pitchfreak.
(You tell yrself stories too, my friend: tell yrself y’r doing X because yr shaky psyche is scared to get caught doing Y——Y being what y’v wasted too much time at anyhow
——and anyhow y’r doing Z.)
(And what’s worse, if I’m contriving to hear what I’m composing, I’m schizoid from the outset:
1.I’m the mobilized & engaged creator nurturing, and urging on into the unknown, a burgeoning organism;
2.I’m the omniscient critical listener (warped by what animus? judging from what pedestal?) poised to reaffirm, or
reject, or redirect, in detail, or in toto.)
(And if I’m supposed to stay awake ‘til I get there——& if I can’t sit still for humming to myself and taking it down at dictation——then the envisioned outcome had better seem fetchingly, intriguingly, elevatedly, even irritatingly, Other(——than Me).

}Me vs It{

(Let’s face it, it’s only when my Burgeoning Organism manages to separate itself from me, begins to Demand of me, becomes Other, that it seems Real.)
(and turns me into a Method Actor.)
(So the outcome will stand in no simple relationship to Me,
——is not directly expressive of Me in any uncomplicated sense. It’s a distinct Being (in the sci-fi, not the Heideggerian, sense) which, however, will now cut loose from its animating, inspiriting force (namely, Me, party of the 1
st part) and seek a serviceable Soul out there somewhere (e.g., You——or you——or you——or you——)
___And found Martin!

___Party of the 2
nd part!
(What the performer delivers to you, companho, is to You just some more Incoming Airborne. (Brings you in range.)(Puts you in the picture.) Now you’ve got to Animate on your own, all over again(:___!Party of the 3
rd part).
if You screw up, Martin is wasting his time.)
And you can’t put music on like your one-size-fits-all socks.
Your sock just cuddles your foot all snuggly, be your foot ever so fat, ever so long, ever so corny, ever so dainty, ever so noisome, ever so twitchy.

And your foot comes out the same as it went in.
And your sock, if it’s any good, resumes its sockshape.

But music can mess with your psyche bigtime.
(Close Listening?——That’s not the half of it.)
Your psyche, while on duty animating Incoming, may actually, at least for the nonce, undergo some refinement, some corruption, some harrowing, some soothing; some filtering, some mellowing, some pulsating, some exaltation; some acquiescence; as indeed may the music.
(So whether some incoming airborne carries Deep Comfort or Deep Danger (or just Socks that Won’t Fit) depends on You
——depends on Your Sillyputty Soul, on what Shape you’re in, what shape you can Get Into, the shape of You(——or you——or you——or you——or you——)

}It vs You{
(Get it? Perceive the Pattern?)

(Sure, some music can’t handle the traffic; can’t get thru all those re-fittings without some sagging or some toning of essential tissue; some freshening or some staling of substance.)
(Like Hindemith’s Whatchamacallit.
Don Martino claims it gets a little worse each time they play it.)

Never mind.

What you’ve got my word on is this:
I’ve spared nothing to sweat any dead tissue, any vapid substance, out of it:

All it asks of you is your soul.

}It vs All{

___Have you no regard for Your Audience, Sir?
(You want True Confessions, right?)
(OK. So I’ve moved on. Left GAP6 behind me. Right: I’m just a listener now. Like You(——or you——or——).

}It vs Me{

(So have I got what it takes? or what.)
These perspectives are presumably repugnant to biological science.
The NY Times (01/01) reveals that, for advanced researchers into animal behavior, music is “musical sounds”.
Sounds that “entertain”.
And there’s a “limited number” of such sounds.
——of sounds that entertain “the vertebrate brain”.
(Have you wondered why some music doesn’t seem to get anywhere?)
All subject, of course, to the “laws” of composition——these laws being “similar” among whales, humans, and birds: pentatonic scales and ABA forms, that crowd.
___Hey folks!
___Your innocence Screeches.
You demean long recognized & celebrated musicalities among animals with your feeble (,not to say defunct) music-analytic misapprehensions.——not to mention the dignity of human thought.——or the sanctity of newspaper space.
___Open your Face!
Do you get a buzz when whalesong goes pentatonic?
Well go blow your mind on Rob’t Hall Lewis’s whalesong symphony.
Do you get a buzz when birdsong reprises the A-section?
Well go blow your mind on Messiaen’s Catalog.
(a Pitchfreak
Prefab. (: scales; forms; laws of composition)
!revels! enviously
in, &
!spurns! Detritus
The Demise of Classical Tonality.
:Some composers——think back a ways again(——I go way back)——regretted the loss of the Referential Tonic.
(Not me.)
In response, they proceeded to 1.extend, loosen, or reformulate the principles of tonality to govern an enlarged harmonic inventory or 2.stomp the shit out of some complicit, but unresisting, note. Often C.
:Some regretted the loss of Harmonic (triadic) Homogeneity.
(Me too for a while.) (I cured myself)
In response, they proceeded to 1.proliferate some favored sonority, maybe sexier, maybe hardassed or 2.recirculate the 12, soon & often or 3.impregnate 2. with 1.
These responses yielded valued, seminal music.
:But what I most regretted in both the Demise and the Responses(——keep thinking back a ways——way, way back) was the loss of vividly individualized, distinctly (even multivalently) energized, pitches: of the “color” or “tendency” or “charge” accruing to a pitch thru its involvement in a pitch network (: Take the supertonic’s leadingtone, or a flarped 13th: you don’t wait to smoke it out in college; it’s right there in your face from cradle to grave): instead, we were left with an even distribution of neutral “free & equal” positions in a uniform space, uniformly lusting after stringbass harmonics and fluttertongued flute; a propensity for the sound of everything in general to bomb out the sound of anything in particular; and an exaggerated reliance on proliferation of structures (: keep in mind that the bite of tonal modulation lay not so much in “doing it at a different pitch”——which runs shallow——as in the concommitant recoloring of each pitch retained——which runs deep: Transformation outranks Transportation.).

(Alright already.)

___Could it be Gender-Specific?
(the Pitchfreak
!faces out! from Whatever nexus of cultural drift
!out breaks! “ “ “ “ “ “
!transmutes! “ “ “ “ “
!trumps! “ “ “ “ “
You’re damn straight!
an Animal Rights piece, maybe.
or a caper for Twisted Tutu?
Sure. Fine. You Bet. I’m Psyched!
except Nothing Happens:
like Shaking Hands with Myself. I don’t get the Pitch.
(a lot of Elite types hang out at princeton)
___Post-Tonally. !CONTEMPLATES
___Post-Twelvetonally. !THE 88’s
(by what authority?)
!Turns On!
!invokes! the innards & oddities, the inclusions & exclusions, the outreach & connectivities, of whatever
small——Small is Good——groups of pitches out there evade, or solicit, attention. (Like the birds, like the whales, like the gods, their voices must be heard.) Don’t “structure” them: Heed them: Interact, as with another person: listen; adjust; dispute; assess; respond; support; undermine; absorb. (They will reciprocate.) You didn’t create or shape the world. You’re merely responsible for it. (Krishnamurti, sort of)
___are you testing any Major Markets?
(Roger Sessions composed directly onto the transparents, in ink: “You see, I know what I want.”)
(not Me.)
(I’ll know what I want when my piece is done with me.)
___Sir, this is unProfessional Conduct.
(wasn’t classical tonality a Subtle Interlocutor?——not Rules; nor just a “resource”)
___!infiltrates! (the unfamiliar)
___! “ ! ( “ peculiar)
___! “ ! ( “ repellent)
___!camps out! (on rough ground)
——faithful to Them.
——elucidative of Me.
(is Communication a Dirty Word you ask)
(is this Truly Reflective of the Post-Modern Predicament of Your Average Western Persons Baby?)
!Purports to Believe! that
out there in that not-all-that-limited number of various-sized(——large is ok——)groupings, and successions of groupings, of pitches; out there among their commontones & asymmetries;
a plethora of inklings
of textures, of tones of voice, of dimensionalities, of temporalities, of trajectories,
special to each
& illuminatory of & illuminated by
awaiting discovery and invention:
figments, waifs
to become beings
(——in the sci-fi, not the Heideggerian, sense——)
to seek your acquaintance——
to Suck your Soul.
(what I said, ma’am, was “incoming”)
___It’s Between I & Y’all
)on you

mastered 2001 by Mary Lee Roberts
recorded 1999 by James Moses in Taplin Hall, Princeton University
edited and mastered 2000 by J. K. Randall
mastered 2000 by Benjamin Boretz
produced by
Mary Lee Roberts

[1] UN(-) 9:55
[2] GAP6, I 13:35
[3] GAP6, II 17:38
[4] BLACK /NOISE I 12:55


29 sycamore drive
red hook, ny 12571