a structured improvisation for two multitasking percussionists plus 1 (optional) laptop player
For me, composing music is always about the communication of ideas. My task is to come up with the best way to communicate these ideas to performers and listeners using the tools of a composer: tempo, dynamics, instrumentation, rhythms, notes, etc. In the case of Action/Reaction, I woke up one early winter morning with the idea for the piece bouncing around in my head. Ordinarily, around this point in the process, I would begin to commit my ideas to staff paper. But in this case, the concept, encapsulated in the title, seemed so strong, yet flexible, that I decided to give it free rein, to see how far I could go in refining and honing it, while still keeping it abstract and unconfined to specific notes. Contributing to this decision was my faith in the performers who commissioned this piece — Aaron Butler and Joey Van Hassel. In the end, I came up with a score that assigns each player a primary action, a secondary action, and a signal motive, as well as a primary reaction, a secondary reaction, and a signal reaction. All actions and reactions consist of a single gesture (e.g., a single sustained note, a short roll, an accelerando-ritardando figure on a single timbre, or 2–3 quick notes spanning more than an octave) on a specified instrument. All actions from one player require defined reactions from the other. Though the process and interplay of ideas in Action/Reaction are carefully specified, the exact pitches and many structural details of the piece are left to the performers. — M.P.