Tlön

NOTES BY MARK APPLEBAUM: Tlön is scored for three conductors and no players. Based on my experience of once observing a virulent argument in sign language—which was affectively loud but produced no decibels to speak of, I sought to explore the articulation of traditional musical parameters (namely rhythm, dynamics, and polyphonic texture) in visual rather than aural terms. The piece is at once music and choreographed dance.

A particular fascination for me is the fact that the piece always elicits an imagined sound among audience members. But while our experience of a conventional piece of music will only be marginally different among two audience members sitting next to one another (due to variations in their precise acoustical positioning, the shape of their outer ears, the type and degree of their inevitable lifetime hearing degradation, and, most profoundly if mysteriously, the accreted wisdom of past musical experience—and emotional outlook—that they bring to bear on their cognition), in Tlön audience members “hear” (imagine) remarkably disparate sounds. A vigorous downbeat might suggest a dissonant, clangorous orchestral cluster for one viewer, and a sunny major chord played by wind ensemble for another. The piece seems to problematize not only the boundaries of instrumentation but of musical ontology.

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