Against Gravity | John Abram

Against Gravity was written for a concert at the Open Space Gallery in Victoria, BC. The theme of the concert was “junk electronics”, and I had the idea of writing for a group of unusual instruments - metronomes, kitchen equipment, cassette tapes and toys. The source material for the piece was a 6-bar, 6-part polyphonic passage originally used in my piece Lament. Each of the 6 parts consists of only 3 different note values (quarter, triplet quarter and dotted eighth), but because the counterpoint is fairly thick, and the note values are so close in duration, the passage seems very dense. The first movement of Against Gravity is a version of this passage for 6 clickers. The passage is repeated several times, then slows down. Originally, the scoring was for 6 electronic metronomes, but it is very hard to find ones which can be played reliably. The second movement is electro-acoustic and is a processed version of a section of my piece Lament. The recording is heard at half-speed, taking up the tempo from the end of the previous movement. For the original performance all the processing was done with guitar pedals (in the spirit of junk electronics), but for this new version, I re-did the processing on a shorter passage of Lament using digital tools. The last movement uses a range of toy instruments, recorded sound and pot lids. Performers are free to choose which instrument to use for written notes, and how long the notes last, though there is a general tendency for the notes to become longer as the piece progresses. Again the rhythms are derived from the 6-bar passage, though now the counterpoint becomes less noticeable as the tempo slows again and again. The recorded speech is a garbled version of BBC 3 radio announcer Tom Crow’s introductions to performances of Renaissance settings of Dido’s Lament, from Virgil’s Aeneid. I was obsessed with this book for a number of years, and it became the basis of my anti-opera Aeneid Music, which ends with a version of this movement. The title is not a plea for more levity, rather - because of the nature of the music in this piece - I tried to think of something which would inevitably slow down: something that is thrown up in the air, moving against gravity.

This is a studio recording, with all instruments except tape played by Eric Bumstead. The second movement is the revised, shorter one.

© John Abram 2017