"Working with forces unknown to me has always been an exciting challenge,” says Elliott Sharp, “especially when those forces are in the form of younger musicians, highly skilled and enthusiastic.” For his work with the musicians of the Veni Academy, he chose three previously composed works that would be easily adaptable to a large ensemble whose instrumentation was not the result of prior design plus one newly composed for the occasion. The chosen pieces were based on well-defined processes that made use of instant decision-making on the part of both the players and the conductor, and finally, some graphic notation.
Composed in 2003 for string quartet, The Dispersion of Seeds uses a simple algorithm of arpeggiation of nine chords throughout its arc to create shifting verticalities. The piece would be different with every performance yet would retain its distinct identity. The composition Flexagons is based on permutations of composed fragments ordered in time with instructions on how to flex and fold them. Augmenting the flex is the possibility of players “popping out” with short improvised statements that may be acted upon by the other players and thereby revealing another facet.
The Hidden Variable is a suite of graphic scores originally conceived for solo guitar using “alternate bows” to generate sounds on the guitar. Palimpsest was composed for the occasion and a world premiere. Historically, a palimpsest manuscript could be reused by scraping or erasing the text. While the removal of the original texts might be quite thorough, elements of the original items might still be evident, whether explicitly or subliminally, creating a “palimpsest.” Here Sharp’s "original texts" are sample measures taken from previous scores, compiled as raw materials in this new work, superimposed on the now-erased substrate, the “manuscript".