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Program note: Matthew Shlomowitz Slow Flipping Harmony

  • The Song Company
  • Source: The Song Company Programme Cage Uncaged 15 September 2007

Slow Flipping Harmony - Matthew Shlomowitz (b. 1975)
For open instrumentation, London 2006
Shlomowitz's recent music has often featured the "looping" of musical ideas. ln Slow
Flipping Harmony each performer has his or her own melodic material, related but
distinguishable from that of other players. These sections of material are repeated a
number of times before the performers move on to new, contrasting music, however, the
loops are asynchronous: the musicians play their loops at different speeds to one
another. "l try to make a divine mess...dispassionate, ambiguous, somewhat out-of focus
materials rubbing up against the occasional expressively vivid splash...Multiple
material strands simultaneously in motion, with each strand looping independently at its
own speed, producing a revolving world where both nothing and so-much happens."
ln a related manner, Slow Flipping Harmony embodies processes of disintegration and
decay: in addition to the four melodic instruments it features the use of two "poor quality
recording devices" which record and play back as the music progresses. This process is
mirrored in another of the tasks the players are asked to apply themselves to
imaginatively: in a number of sections of the work they are instructed to damage or
"dirty" their sound in a manner of their own choosing.
Shlomowitz describes his use of open instrumentation and decision-making by
performers as a kind of "anti-preciousness." lt bucks the trend, evident through the
history of classical music, of composers exercising ever-greater degrees of control over
performance through the use of increasingly detailed notational practices. Many open
scored works thus take music-making back to the time when a composer's contribution
to a performance consisted simply of the provision of a set of pitches and rhythms.