Contemporary chamber music [performance + composition + research]

nief-norf Project Residency at NIU

The nief-norf Project will be in residence at Northern Illinois University, with Andrew Bliss, Erin Walker Bliss, Kerry O'Brien, Ashley Walters, and Christopher Adler. Events include performances of Where Was I? by Evan Ziporyn, Plenum Vortices by Christopher Adler, Aura by Anna Thorvaldsdottir, the devouring shore by John Supko, and the world premiere of Ashley, Christopher, Andy by Nicholas Deyoe. The nief-norf Project also joins with NIU students and faculty for performances of Music for 18 Musicians by Steve Reich and Ecstatic Volutions in a Neon Haze by Christopher Adler.

Listen to John Supko's the devouring shore from nnSF14

From composer John Supko's website

Commissioned by nief-norf, the devouring shore is a work for percussion quartet & generative electronics. The players & loudspeakers surround the audience to create an immersive, endlessly evolving sonic environment of noise, pitch, & whispered text. 

I think of this piece as a sort of ceremony of oblivion, a litany of everything that could (or should) be forgotten. Perhaps this is my oblique attempt at mindfulness meditation! In any case, the devouring shore falls into a category of pieces I've been writing–Usine is another example–that blur the distinction between installation & performance. I'm interested in music that doesn't require the listener to be present from the beginning–or at the end–in order to have a satisfying experience of the piece.

Each of the four performers plays from laptops that are controlled by a fifth laptop via a private wireless network. The performers also have arrays of resonant metal objects, "found" objects, & drums. They receive instructions from the laptops regarding when to play what, & in what manner. The laptops also generate text for the players to whisper while playing. The texts are generated based on the following formula: 

     The [adjective] [sg. or pl. noun] must be forgotten. 

Each performance of the piece will result in different texts being generated. Here are a few examples:

     The swifter magnets must be forgotten.
     The journeying purity must be forgotten.
     The heroic atlases must be forgotten.
     The bad spells must be forgotten.
     The sadder listeners must be forgotten.

Because the players are instructed to play a note or object on each syllable of the text, their natural speech rhythms guide their performance on the instruments.  

The control laptop also generates layers of harmony, noise, & drones that constantly emerge & disappear throughout the performance. The piece has no specified duration & could conceivably be played without interruption for many hours. The text generator alone can produce millions of unique sentences.

The present version is the premiere performance by nief-norf during their summer festival at Furman University on 27 May 2014. Many thanks to Evan Chapman for the recording.