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I've been composing graphical scores since 2004. Each score has been done for a particular group, and not just for a certain set of instruments but also for specific persons, each with their own personal sound and their own distinct approach to improvisation. The scores hover in the gray region between composition and improvisation. They create a situation where the players are free up to a point to improvise but in which they could also find themselves in juxtapositions with other players which they might not have personally chosen, thus throwing a metaphoric wrench in the proceedings.
The question has been posed several times, "But why do this? Why not just let the group improvise freely?" I'm interested in when a playing situation becomes unstable, when the players find themselves in situations which test the comfort zone of how and with whom they want to play with. The scores serve as a conduit for this process. But they are also more: they allow me to shape a playing environment, taking into account the different players, their instruments, even the notion of the playing space itself as one of the more decisive factors in the outcome of a piece. Beyond all this, as a visual artist I'm fascinated with the process of the graphical representation of sound: how we can depict a certain sound or way of playing graphically and how others can interpret a graphical form as a sound.
Two parameters govern the scores: the vertical axis indicates the general dynamics of the playing, the horizontal axis is a time line. I draw graphical forms for the musicians to interpret as they wish. I only ask that all dynamic and timing indications be adhered to as closely as possible. I give no information on how the graphical forms should be reacted to.
"Open Space" was commissioned by the 2012 now NOW Festival in Sydney, Australia. I chose some of the players myself, and some were suggested to me by the group's trombonist Rishin Singh (who also wrote the liner note to the LP). For the people suggested to me, and for whose work I was not familiar with, recordings were sent to me of them playing. On the basis of these recordings and my own personal knowledge of the other players, I was able to construct the score. I also knew that I wanted to work with a large group because the space we would be performing in would be a large one (which I'd already played in at the 2011 now NOW Festival).
The title "Open Space" refers both to the idea of working in an open space: the physical space of a room as well as the spaces of player interaction within the group and in reaction to the performance space itself; and to the notion of opening that space between improvisation and composition, delving into the friction and conduction which lie between these two approaches and opening this space up to discover the possibilities which lie therein.