Jeph and I walked through the dry bed of Barton Creek on Tuesday afternoon to collect dozens of riverstones for the piece. Various co-op members also collected bamboo, sticks, and leaves.
There is a score, but the gradual movement and open approach of the piece is such that reading from the score isn’t necessary during performance.
The rehearsals have been unusually relaxed and meditative. I wouldn’t say the piece is “easy” to perform, but the demands it makes are less technical and more about proper mindset, concentration, and very active listening.
In general, we’ve been going through a gradual process of extending the duration of the various sections of the piece and refining our approach to creating the sounds.
Some of the objects, like the larger stones, require a pretty simple approach, while others are a bit trickier. I’ve noticed that the pine cones require a lot of practice. Once you get your technique down, it is almost like playing a little Mbira.
Of course, one of the main challenges in this piece is avoiding pitfalls of periodicity and melody. Jerman’s work is, in many ways, attempts to parallel natural sounds. As musicians, we tend to approach sonorous objects as we would percussive or melodic instruments. For this piece, that is the wrong approach. “Randomizing” your actions or “intentionally fumbling” is a valuable skill here, and one that is rarely brought out in most pieces.