Michael Gordon’s 8 (for eight cellos) available now in digital audio or CD (score and parts available through Ricordi NY/Universal Music Group) is part of a series of works for multiples of a single instrument that began with Timber for six pieces of wood, and includes Rushes for seven bassoons and Amplified for four electric guitars. Each of these works is meant to induce a quasi-meditative, almost ecstatic state, in the listener as well as the performer.
In essence, the recording of 8 also explores the dimensional quality of sound. The eight cellists of Cello Octet Amsterdam are positioned in a circle, and the passages they play travel around the circle in both directions, call-and-response style. If you’re in the middle of the circle, you can hear the dimensionality and perspective of the sound clearly. When listening closely to the recording, you can hear the bass notes traveling in space independently of the melody line. Each cellist plays both the melody and the bass, switching back and forth in a choreography of musical roles.
“I think of this a bit like moving from two-dimensional art to three-dimensional art. Sound isn’t a flat line — now it takes on multiple roles in space and time. So it’s a sculpture of three dimensions.”
— Michael Gordon
8 was commissioned by Cello Octet Amsterdam, November Music, and the Cello Biennale Amsterdam; it was premiered on October 20, 2018 by Cello Octet Amsterdam at the Cello Biennale Amsterdam.