Music



Please contact me with any questions,
including rental/purchase information: jasontbuchanan {at} gmail.com



Hunger (2014-, work in progress)
A Multimedia Opera in Four Parts
for two sopranos, baritone, alto flute, bass clarinet, baritone saxophone, electric guitar, percussion, piano, violin, cello, electronics, & video processing

hunger score

        


CREATION & BRIEF SYNOPSIS:
Knut Hamsun's novel Sult is a point of departure for a libretto by award-winning poet Darcie Dennigan, exploring themes of psychological decay, irrationality, and self-destruction. Oumenos is a starving and delusional young writer who is unwilling to compromise his work even as his intellect and body gradually deteriorate. He is split in two; the baritone and soprano form a composite, each depicting aspects of his inner/outer selves and suppressed madness. His hunger and self-disgust lead him to consider stealing bread, and to thoughts of self-mutilation. He despises his baseness. He is a dog. He is drawn to Ylajali (mezzo-soprano), a young girl who appears to him in various manifestations. At the bloodbank, Ylajali draws his blood. At the spermbank, she coaxes his orgasm. In a butchershop, Ylajali as countergirl displays the meat before him. He fights his coarseness and hungers to appear presentable, normal. He finds himself examining her on the counter as if she were meat. Humiliated by his inner self, and by Ylajali, he in turn humiliates her. He has again become, in his mind, a dog.

The complete opera in four parts is being composed over the course of several years via residencies throughout the U.S. and Europe. The first completed scene of the opera (Part III, Sc. 1) was selected for the Internationales Musikinstut Darmstadt Contemporary Opera Workshop and premiered August, 2014 in a acoustic version for three singers, alto flute, bass clarinet, percussion, piano, violin, and cello. This ensemble was augmented by the inclusion of electric guitar, baritone saxophone, live electronics, and video projection of both live capture and pre-recorded film for the L.A. premiere of Part III, Scenes 1 & 2 at The Industry's "First Take", and the [Switch~ Ensemble]'s NYC premiere on the MATA Interval Series at the DiMenna Center.

The score, electronics, and video for Part 1 will be finalized during a three-month residency appointed by the City Council of Bergen, Norway at USF Verftet in Fall of 2015. Our vision is a multimedia opera whose musical and dramaturgical narrative is driven not by dialogue or action, but rather psychological and musical states and situations that integrate video projection and electronics seamlessly, contextualizing the extremely fragmented music and text. While obfuscating much of the semantic content, this fragmentation and oscillation between intelligibility and unintelligibility demands a focus on phenomenological qualities and filmic subtlety, with physical, aural, and visual cues indicating context for the behavior of the singers and the interaction with their digital surroundings.

Hunger breaks with operatic conventions by eschewing grandeur and dramaturgical coherence in order to explore the volatile city of one man's psyche. Because its true subject is, as Hamsun described, "the delicate fluctuations of a sensitive soul, the strange, peculiar life of the mind," its narrative threads are unclassifiable and non-contiguous within the confines of conventional logic, and its protagonist is splintered and psychologically erratic, with theatrical time that is compressed through multimedia into situations that are claustrophobically intimate, constantly in flux, and contradictory. It thus invites participants to construct and engage with a multiplicity of scenarios and readings. The edge of comprehensibility itself becomes a means of producing structural integrity and coherence while reflecting the central theme of psychological deterioration and fragility.

- Jason Thorpe Buchanan & Darcie Dennigan
(September 15, 2014)


More at
www.hungeropera.com

soliloquios del viento (2016)
for Talea Ensemble and EXAUDI
six singers, bass flute, bass clarinet, tenor saxophone, percussion, piano, violin, viola, and cello

Commissioned by Voix Nouvelles de la Fondation Royaumont
World Premiere: Royaumont Abbey, France - 9/09/2016


soliloquios del viento was commissioned by Royaumont Académie Voix Nouvelles, written in August of 2016 and premiered by the Talea Ensemble & EXAUDI on September 9, 2016, conducted by James Baker. This fourteen-minute work is a meditation on eight poems of Pablo Neruda, reflecting love, distance, and despair. The six singers are set against eight instrumentalists whose fragile and often voiceless sonorities gently color and obscure the murmuring of the text and pointillisic vocal material. The Spanish text is predominantly unintelligible, with the content of Neruda's words instead conjured by the composite texture. He writes of two lovers, their romance characterized by abrasion -- a rendezvous between two scorched, ascetic souls, who consume and destroy one another, entangled yet divided by both sublime transfiguration and inexorable chaos. Neruda's texts evoke not only the conflict between darkness and light in both persons, but through this lens, the experience of being confronted with the subjectivity of another's consciousness. That otherness is manifest in lurid, destructive passions, revealing mutual incoherence, frailty, and sophism beyond endurance. Each poem seems to present discrete, parallel scenarios, some in which each is awoken by their confrontation rather than destroyed -- in others suffering to the point of intolerable anguish and desolation. Eroticism and sunderance run throughout Neruda's powerful imagery, his lover depicted as an enemy with whom he pleads for voice -- who has disgraced their love. For the poet, love is the sole means with which two people may "weather" one another. A source of both euphoria and utter devastation, there is a vastness that is evoked in his texts, an attempt to span immeasurable time and distance. Each braves the other, an intimacy and corrosive embrace that both breaks and absolves each person.



gimme shelter (2015)
for Eklekto Percussion
three percussionists, electronics, and video processing
Text by Darcie Dennigan

Commissioned by Eklekto Percussion Center, Geneva

World Premiere: Geneva, Switzerland - 11/14/2015




Audio, and video coming soon.

              


walkside, lost and gimme shelter are two works in a cycle of compositions for three percussionists, electronics, and live video processing on texts by American poet Darcie Dennigan written specifically for these commissions, the first for Gaudeamus Muziekweek & Slagwerk Den Haag, the second for Eklekto Percussion Geneva. The pieces both revolve around the structural intersections of precisely notated gestures that influence human performance with software systems that influence behavior of multimedia, the obfuscation or recontextualization of semantic content in speech, and the way in which confusion and ambiguity distort a participant's perception. The systems I have designed for these works serve to generate reservoirs of video and audio in real-time that are recalled, manipulated, and re-composited against themselves during the live performance in various ways throughout the work. Variables for video compositing and audio processing are governed by precise automation of distinct parameters that control the behavior of the system, resulting in visual, aural, and temporal dissonances between multimedia and human performance. To emulate organic, unpredictable behavior, noise is introduced into the system so that these automation values become weighted/biased targets rather than fixed values. Further expansion and development of these software systems will allow the behavior of multimedia elements to be influenced by, and respond to, data parsed directly from the behavior and actions of live performers through the use of sensors, microphones, video data, and motion tracking for enhanced integration between the behavior of the software system and performers to create a dynamic performance environment. These developments will be utilized progressively with each new work in the cycle, a process that will eventually turn back on itself and be retroactively incorporated with each new performance of each work.
-    Jason Thorpe Buchanan

walkside, lost: Sidewalks are crucial for protests, commuting, parades, playing, and more, but increasingly in America, sidewalks are absent from urban planning. This piece enacts the absurdity of the current American political discourse on public space-- we're not even evolved enough to be at cross purposes. The best one can say is that we're at cross-talks.

gimme shelter: It was Halloween when the New York Times showcased their story of a German town and its 102 inhabitants "bracing" for their mandated embrace of 750 asylum seekers. Catastrophe visits the world's inhabitants unevenly, disproportionately, and then its victims, costumed in their catastrophe, must visit us. gimme shelter evokes three starkly contrasting sociopolitical viewpoints in a text written concurrent with the mass exodus of citizens of poor, war-ravaged, and environmentally unstable countries seeking home elsewhere. No single perspective or line is more important here than the other. Rather, consider the accretion of speech in overlapping entreaties alongside the stagnant drone of statistics and rhetoric. We are not free to listen to one side, to make one account readable, livable-- hospitable.
-    Darcie Dennigan

hunger fragments (2015)
for The New York Virtuoso Singers
sixteen solo voices

Commissioned by The New York Virtuoso Singers
Text by Darcie Dennigan

World Premiere: New York City, NY - 11/29/2015


  


hunger fragments is an assemblage of texts for sixteen solo voices that were initially stripped from the libretto for the multimedia opera Hunger by Darcie Dennigan and Jason Thorpe Buchanan. These texts have been woven together to create a new work, independent from the opera, that functions as an impression of its essence. The stripping away of narrative leaves only a bare and visceral refraction, alluding to themes of psychological deterioration, fragility, and fragmentation of self or multiplicity. Poet Darcie Dennigan writes: "After reading accounts of writers who nearly starved for their writing, like Knut Hamsun's Hunger and Mavis Gallant's "Hunger Diaries," I became interested in the line between physical hunger endowing a kind of clarity of mind in a writer and physical hunger overtaking, muddying the mind. I, like this multi-threaded piece, am of approximately eighteen minds. Gertrude Stein is one. What am I doing but making a stage for language to improvise upon? Virginia Woolf is at least two others, one of them always untangling threads of consciousness, the other tangling them up again. But perhaps my other fifteen minds are occupied with living, with making money so that my family can eat, sleep, have warm coats, etc. The trope of the starving artist is well-known, but I wonder how good the work can be, and how it can be sustained over time, when one's mind is overtaken by thoughts of where/how the next meal. I wonder if we are comfortable with this trope because it allows us to continue to undervalue creative work. How much my life would be worth to me if I did not have the space (i.e., the physical capacity; i.e., enough food) to question and play with the nature of consciousness?

walkside, lost (2015)
for Slagwerk Den Haag
three percussionists, electronics, and video processing
Text by Darcie Dennigan

Commissioned by Gaudeamus Muziekweek

World Premiere: Utrecht, Netherlands - 9/13/2015





        

walkside, lost and gimme shelter are two works in a cycle of compositions for three percussionists, electronics, and live video processing on texts by American poet Darcie Dennigan written specifically for these commissions, the first for Gaudeamus Muziekweek & Slagwerk Den Haag, the second for Eklekto Percussion Geneva. The pieces both revolve around the structural intersections of precisely notated gestures that influence human performance with software systems that influence behavior of multimedia, the obfuscation or recontextualization of semantic content in speech, and the way in which confusion and ambiguity distort a participant's perception. The systems I have designed for these works serve to generate reservoirs of video and audio in real-time that are recalled, manipulated, and re-composited against themselves during the live performance in various ways throughout the work. Variables for video compositing and audio processing are governed by precise automation of distinct parameters that control the behavior of the system, resulting in visual, aural, and temporal dissonances between multimedia and human performance. To emulate organic, unpredictable behavior, noise is introduced into the system so that these automation values become weighted/biased targets rather than fixed values. Further expansion and development of these software systems will allow the behavior of multimedia elements to be influenced by, and respond to, data parsed directly from the behavior and actions of live performers through the use of sensors, microphones, video data, and motion tracking for enhanced integration between the behavior of the software system and performers to create a dynamic performance environment. These developments will be utilized progressively with each new work in the cycle, a process that will eventually turn back on itself and be retroactively incorporated with each new performance of each work.
-    Jason Thorpe Buchanan

walkside, lost: Sidewalks are crucial for protests, commuting, parades, playing, and more, but increasingly in America, sidewalks are absent from urban planning. This piece enacts the absurdity of the current American political discourse on public space-- we're not even evolved enough to be at cross purposes. The best one can say is that we're at cross-talks.

gimme shelter: It was Halloween when the New York Times showcased their story of a German town and its 102 inhabitants "bracing" for their mandated embrace of 750 asylum seekers. Catastrophe visits the world's inhabitants unevenly, disproportionately, and then its victims, costumed in their catastrophe, must visit us. gimme shelter evokes three starkly contrasting sociopolitical viewpoints in a text written concurrent with the mass exodus of citizens of poor, war-ravaged, and environmentally unstable countries seeking home elsewhere. No single perspective or line is more important here than the other. Rather, consider the accretion of speech in overlapping entreaties alongside the stagnant drone of statistics and rhetoric. We are not free to listen to one side, to make one account readable, livable-- hospitable.
-    Darcie Dennigan

Second Study for Alto Saxophone, Video, and Electronics: pulp (2015)

Co-Commissioned by Matt Evans, Casey Grev, Emily Loboda, Marta Tiesenga, & Sean Fredenburg
World Premiere: Strasbourg, France - July 13, 2015




Full video coming soon.



Second Study for Alto Saxophone, Electronics, and Video: pulp (2015) was co-commissioned by Matt Evans, Casey Grev, Emily Jane Loboda, Sean Fredenburg, and Marta Tiesenga. The work was premiered at the World Saxophone Congress in Strasbourg, France on July 13, 2015 by Matt Evans, and is based on the life and work of American poet Charles Bukowski. The work utilizes source materials - audio and video footage - recorded throughout Bukowski's life, such as interviews, documentaries, and poetry readings. The work gradually developed from an initial commission proposal for a work with soprano voice, alto saxophone, and electronics, to instead constrain the soprano part within the boundaries of the electronics and video. The result is a collage made up of the superimposition of source materials, newly recorded video and audio using texts of Bukowski and emulation of saxophone recordings, and video capture that is processed and composited against each opposing stream of video in real-time during the performance. Upon returning from Germany in 2011, my first project was a commission from saxophonist Michael Rene Torres, resulting in the work First Study for Alto Saxophone: doublethink. At the time, a large harmonic blueprint was generated with material to be utilized as structural pillars in a cycle of additional works for saxophone. The aforementioned blueprint consists of pitch materials that are generated through two distinct serial matrices, each gradually 'bent' by a quarter-tone from the 1st to 12th position. A sequence of multiphonics were then chosen aurally and mapped onto these pillars - in such a way that an organic succession can be felt even through dense layers of material - before composing out the space between these points with material derived both from the two matrices, and from intuitively written material utilizing pitch content from the adjacent multiphonics. These microtonal pitch fields are inevitably perceived as a mass of sound or series of gestures rather than discrete pitch class sets, and although the layers are not heard individually but as a composite, the resulting networks interact with each other and influence the listener's experience in various ways. In pulp, I began at the precise point in the blueprint where I left off with doublethink; through both subtle and abrasive computer processes, the acoustic, electronic, and video elements fuse together to form a web of rich timbres and colors. In this work, harmonic relationships are both emphasized and obscured through the use of multiphonics, vocalizations, speech, and extended techniques and tremolos meant to disrupt and destabilize explicit pitch content. The physicality in performance and fragility inherent in production of these sounds is likely the most salient feature of the saxophone writing, and serve to complement the raw, abrasive, and often vulgar nature of Bukowski's life and work.
-    Jason Thorpe Buchanan



      de/ter|           |ior.ation (2015)
in/               |minate|
for the Blue Water Chamber Orchestra
2.2.2.1-1.2.0.0-Timp+1-6.5.4.3.2

Commissioned by the Blue Water Chamber Orchestra as winner of Iron Composer 2014

World Premiere: Cleveland, OH - May 9, 2015




de/ter|       |ior.ation was commissioned by the Blue Water Chamber Orchestra and written in early March of 2015. The work is closely tied to my multimedia opera in-progress Hunger, which explores themes of psychological decay, irrationality, and self-destruction through the fragmentation of concise musical objects, gestures, text, and video, as well as the obfuscation of semantic content in regard to speech and the human voice. In de/ter |       |ior.ation, these themes are manifest in the character of the musical materials themselves, navigating a spectrum between density or saturation and fragility. I imagine this work almost as an estranged overture to the multimedia opera - it exists as a separate entity with its own materials and identity, but they remain inextricably entwined. The music gradually unravels as a pulsation in the strings slowly infects the rest of the orchestra. This infection causes the ensemble to swell and burst, giving way to delicate timbral and microtonal fluctuations in the lower strings and an entirely disparate sonic territory. In my recent work, I am drawn to instability, abrasion, and chaos, visual/aural dissonances between a sound and its source, and the pursuit of greater variability through controlled aleatory and elastic time (i.e. simultaneities rather than synchronization) - notation that influences or prescribes behavior rather than singular musical events.
     As suggested by the subtitle, in/     |minate|, this new territory is increasingly in/de/ter|minate| and the materials are designed in such a way to provide greater freedom to the performers and opportunities for extreme virtuosity (or anti-virtuosity), exploring the in/ter|ior of the sounds themselves as an analogue for the human experience as musical events drift between temporal synchronicity and causality. In contrast to much of my recent work, I have found myself imagining sparser textures and softer sounds that delicately reveal the relationships between individual layers, parameters, or individual sonic events, and am intrigued by the dialogue that takes place as these layers generate a composite. Each instrument is broken down, quite literally, as the work gently reaches toward nothingness, fading away to ter|minate in complete silence.
     I feel that the exploratory nature of art necessitates instability and fluctuation as opposed to stasis. Above all else, my goal is to try new things; not for their own sake, but for the sake of changing my own perspective and discovering beauty in sound objects and processes that are unfamiliar to me. With each piece, I believe that it is absolutely necessary to challenge not only my own technical faculties and their limitations, but to entirely reassess what I believe in both aesthetically and ideologically. The purpose, and value of art should always be in question; what does it mean for a piece of art to be 'good' or for a piece of music to be 'bad'? In challenging my own preconceptions, I hope that at least some sliver of this reassessment process will also transfer to each individual that experiences the work, in turn questioning their own values, and hopefully finding something that they can recognize as being 'beautiful' (perhaps I am an optimist). The timbral attributes of each instrument informs my process as much as any conceptual device, extra-musical narrative, or ideological motivation, and are absolutely integral to the work. The relationships between the sounds themselves provide the focal point for the work rather than purely conceptual or theoretical schema.

antistasis (2014)
for Ensemble Nikel

Commissioned by the Tzlil Meudcan International Contemporary Music Festival (Israel)

(program notes...)


oggetti 1 (2014)
for the Fiati 5 Wind Quintet

Commissioned by Chamber Music Campania (Italy)

(program notes...)




Double Concerto for Two Horns and Chamber Orchestra (2014)
for Jeff Nelsen, Mike Walker, Brad Lubman, and the Eastman Musica Nova Ensemble
1.1.2.1-4.1.1.0-3 Perc-1.1.1.1.1

Commissioned by the International Horn Society
Winner, 2015 ASCAP Morton Gould Award

(program notes...)




  

...durat(A)ions: "broken landscape" (2013)
for Iktus Percussion

(program notes...)





Asymptotic Flux: Second Study in Entropy (Static Foxy Lump: [II] Second Nudist Tyre Pony) (2013)
for Alarm Will Sound
1.1.2.1-1.1.1.0-2 Perc-1.1.1.1.1

Winner, 2014 ASCAP Morton Gould Award
Winner, Howard Hanson Orchestral Prize, 2014
Nominee, Gaudeamus Prize, 2015

(program notes...)



Asymptotic Flux: First Study in Entropy (2012)
for amplified bass clarinet, violin, viola & cello

Co-commissioned by OSSIA and the [Switch~ Ensemble]
Winner, 2013 newEar Fourth Annual Composers' Competition

(program notes...)


First Study for Alto Saxophone: doublethink (2012)

Commissioned by Michael Rene Torres for the 2012 North American Saxophone Alliance conference
Winner, Belle S. Gitelman Award, Eastman School of Music

(program notes...)




EARLY WORKS

Many of my works prior to 2011 have been withdrawn, some may be available upon request.
Please contact me with any questions: jasontbuchanan {at} gmail.com
Berlin Songs (2011)
for soprano, baritone, fl, cl, b.cl, 2 vln, 2 vlc, pno, 2 perc.
Commissioned by Thomas Heuser and the German Fulbright-Kommission
2nd place, The American Prize, 2012
Finalist, 2012 ASCAP Morton Gould Award
(score)
   Last updated January 17, 2017