Weather was commissioned by the Seimans Foundation for the German-based string orchestra, Ensemble Resonanz. Inspired by the chaotic scheme of weather patterns, I wondered how these might transfer musically, as if the past several hundred years of musical ideas were swirling around, and I could just grab things I liked and build on them.
I imagined history as being not so much like a timeline, but like an elevator where I could stop at whatever floor I wanted, and everything was going on simultaneously. The elevator went up to eight, where I found Vivaldi, who of course wrote a massive string piece based loosely on the same subject. Then I went down to the fourth floor, where I found Jimi Hendrix, back up to nine for some 1990’s London club music, then to five for the noise of battleship sirens.
In Weather Two, I put the entire string orchestra through a fuzz box, a distortion unit associated with electric guitars, which I first used in my solo cello piece, Industry. It’s a sound I continue to go back to. Weather Three is constructed from a recording of a siren blast. I harmonize the blast with the string orchestra, slowly transforming this dangerous and edgy warning into a friendlier and calmer sound. Weather One and Weather Four do not use electronics, and can be played unamplified as well as amplified.
The original production of Weather was created in collaboration with filmmaker Elliot Caplan and toured Germany in 1995 as a multimedia production. Soon after, Ensemble Resonanz recorded the piece for the London-based, “drum-and-bass” dance label, Arthrob. The instruments were miked closely, and the sound is up front and aggressive, almost rough.
The connection with Arthrob gave me the opportunity to go into the studio after the work had been recorded and add a layer of drum beats and synthesized sounds. These exist only on the recording. I like to think that Weather does with a string orchestra what a composer in 1723 would have wanted to do had he access to the technology. —Michael Gordon