Two Lines (1994)

Two legendary composer/performers join forces on this recording to unite composition with improvisation, "new music" with "new jazz." Starting from Rosenboom's notated score for TWO LINES and his HFG (Hierarchical Form Generator) musical computer program, these musicians have achieved a composition that is immediately heard. Duets with interactive HMSL (Hierarchical Music Specification Language) software. Includes Rosenboom's TWO LINES, plus compositions in collaboration with Braxton: LINEAGE, ENACTMENT, TRANSFIGURATION and TRANSFERENCE. Instrumentation: midi Grand Piano, HFG software, responding sampled piano David Rosenboom, sopranino, soprano and alto saxophones, clarinet and flute Anthony Braxton. Lovely Music, Ltd., New York, #LCD 3071, [CD]

In my writings on Propositional Music, I refer to improvisation as composition that is immediately heard, in contrast to composition that is subsequently heard. There are three senses in which the music on this CD is composed.

First, some of the music is based on a completely notated score, Two Lines, which I wrote for Anthony Braxton and myself in 1989. Like much of my music, Two Lines is an investigation of forms in nature, with particular emphasis on models of evolution. The score is comprised of a single line of music with chords and clusters. To generate it, I began with a drone, the symbol of ultimate stability and stasis in musical form. Then, I greatly amplified the tiny, microscopic variations contained in even the most perfect drone and translated these into the notes of a melodic line. Finally, the original drone was removed. Surprisingly, the music that remains is highly ordered, containing patterns that can be observed at any scale of magnification and, hopefully, preserving some of the rhythms of life.

This line is intended to serve as a focal point, around which a kind of musical space or field, complete with its own definition of gravity or attraction to ideas, becomes defined when two or more individuals bring to it their own interpretations. The musicians’ instructions invoke a feeling of sportsmanship. There is no meter. We will slow down and speed up. Sometimes we’ll play as fast as possible. Sometimes we’ll slow it way down. We’ll add some dynamic changes. Any chord or note with multiple accidentals presents some choices: choose a primary pitch and play it; embellish a primary pitch by arpeggiating the chord or playing the extra notes as ornaments. When the music starts, dive in and meet at the end. Two Lines can be played by any instrumentalists and a version for soloists with ensembles of any size has also been created.

Second, I have written a musical computer program, called HFG (Hierarchical Form Generator), using the well known music software, HMSL (Hierarchical Music Specification Language). HFG is used here in much of the piano performance. It contains a partial model of musical perception with which it listens to any musical input while attempting to parse or separate this music into meaningful segments or phrases. These become available for the performer to recall from memory singly or in combinations. A repertoire of functions is available with which to transform both the spontaneous, incoming music and the memorized phrase groupings. Some of the functions are suggested by graphic icons accompanying the listing of sections. These often transformed phrases are intended to interact with each other in a way that stimulates the emergence of new forms or ideas. In this way, they bring a kind of structure to the improvisations.

Third, open musical spaces are interposed between sections of Two Lines and inside each of the other selections. They are the result of our collective improvisations. I am indebted to Anthony Braxton for participating in this collaboration. Few musicians have integrated composition and performance so thoroughly, are able to immediately comprehend the ideas involved in this work and understand that continuous, interactive transformation is fundamental to dynamic, musical dialogue.

David Rosenboom, Valencia, CA USA, 5/30/94