I wrote Light Is Calling in my studio on Desbrosses Street in the days and months after September 11, 2001. I live close to Ground Zero, and I wanted to make something beautiful after witnessing something ugly and tragic. The piece juxtaposes the sound of an acoustic violin with warped electronic pulses played backwards.
Bill Morrison, with whom I collaborated on Decasia, created an accompanying film to Light Is Calling by reprinting and re-editing a scene from the black-and-white 1926 movie, The Bells.
I grew up playing, or miss-playing, the piano. My fear of writing for instruments I can't play is minute in comparison to the fear I have of writing for the piano. But I did finally write this piano piece and I called it Sonatra, less as a tribute to Frank than as an acknowledgment that what I am aiming for is somewhere between sonata and Sinatra.
When I started writing Sonatra I decided that since I would probably only ever write one piano piece in my entire life, I wanted to use all of the keys on the piano and use them often. I constructed long chains or links of major and minor thirds that ceaselessly wind their way up and down the piano. Eventually they start cascading and intersperse with glissandos half the length of the keyboard, sounding to me like the performer has at least four hands.
XY is a percussion solo for five tuned drums. In XY, the right and left hand of the performer get louder and softer in reverse symmetry. That is, while the right hand gets louder and louder, the left hand, which was loud, gets softer and softer, and so on. The performer’s hands do this continually. Eventually, each hand moves at different speeds. For instance, if the right hand plays four notes to the beat, the left hand might play five. As the drumming of the right hand fades away, the drumming of the left hand emerges at a faster rate. Also, the length of time that the hands take to emerge and fade contracts and expands.
I am speaking of the hands of the performer as if they were independent beings, and indeed they practically are. When I was imagining the music of XY, I thought of the double helix of DNA, which wraps around itself and spirals upwards.
When I wrote Industry in 1993, I was thinking about the Industrial Revolution, technology, how instruments are tools and how Industry has crept up on us and is all of a sudden overwhelming. I had this vision of a 100-foot cello made out of steel suspended from the sky, a cello the size of a football field, and, in the piece, the cello becomes a hugely distorted sound.
I wrote this piece for Maya Beiser, and it was an incredible process. I would fax her the music and she'd play it to me over the phone. We did this maybe ten times, trying things out. She was constantly teaching me about the cello, and I was making her play things that were really awkward and dark. —Michael Gordon
I met Robert Black at a music festival in Buffalo, New York, in 1985, where I heard him play for the first time. I realized then that there was a lot more to the double bass than bass. When he asked me to write a piece for solo bass, I wanted to take advantage of the very long strings, the very high notes and the very low notes –– all at the same time. I tried to expand the idea of a solo bass piece: Could the bass play bass to itself? At a syncopated speed? In Paint It Black, I tried to make the bass sound like two instruments. I called the piece Paint It Black as a tribute to Robert.