Selected Audio of M.O. Abbott

cDa29 (tetrachromat) (2017)
for 16 instruments

Illinois Modern Ensemble
Stephen Andrew Taylor, conductor

Most humans can perceive about 1 million different hues of colors. The ability to distinguish these hues is enabled by special cells in our eyes called "cones." In the eyes of the average person, there are three different types of cones, each of which responds to different wavelengths of light. Such three cone-bearing folk are said to be "trichromats." Newcastle University neuroscientist Dr. Gabriele Jordan recently discovered a woman who is a "tetrachromat", meaning that she possesses four different types of cones with which to detect light at different wavelengths. Such four cone-possessing humans can see about 10 million different hues of colors. The tetrachromat person discovered by Dr. Jordan is known as subject cDa29, and is a doctor who lives in Europe.

Score Excerpt

Puppis (2016)
for flutes, percussion, and piano

Melody Chua, flutes
Victor Pons, percussion
Tomoko Ono, piano

Puppis is a constellation in the southern sky -- the "Poop Deck", which was originally part of an over-large constellation, the ship of "Jason and the Argonauts", Argo Navis. Additionally, Puppis is the name of a character that appears in a single episode ("The Lost Warrior", 1978) of the original Battlestar Galactica TV series. In this episode, Puppis, the son of Vella on the planet Equellus, is a young farmer boy who uses a numo (air gun) to kill a lupus (wolf-like creature).

Lost Lozenge (2015)
for alto saxophone in E-flat, violin, cello, and piano

Gavin Goodwin, alto saxophone
Kathleen Andrews, violin
Kevin McFarland, cello
Tomoko Ono, piano

Lost Lozenge depicts that to which its title refers in a dual manner -- (1) the experience of he/she who loses their lozenge, at a time when he/she particularly desires it, such as while being afflicted with an unusually bad sore or swollen throat, and (2) the experience of the personified lozenge itself while it is separated from its owner. The human experience can be gleaned from the efforts of the performers, whereas that of the lozenge is perhaps better appreciated via the semi-rigid system of composition employed by the composer.

Synchronicity and Disarray (2015)
for 8 trombones

University of Illinois Trombone Choir
M.O. Abbott, conductor

Synchronicity and Disarray was composed in Spring 2015 for the University of Illinois Trombone Choir. The piece has 2 movements, performed without break. In the first movement, all the trombones are carefully coordinated to form a complex web wherein several musical voices contribute to a single musical goal. The second movement is considerably less predictable; it is as though a ball has been dropped from a great height, smashing into the ground and bouncing chaotically until its energy is expended and it comes to rest. Throughout the piece there is heavy use of microtones and each trombone part has a unique dynamic trajectory. The timbral similarity in all parts creates a delicate effect similar to sine wave additive synthesis.

PSO J318.5-22 (2012-15) (excerpt)
for 12 musicians

Illinois Modern Ensemble
Gonzalo Farias, conductor

PSO J318.5-22 is a free-floating exoplanet located approximately 80 light-years from Earth. It was recently discovered by astronomers using the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) 1 wide-field survey telescope on Maui, Hawaii, during a search for brown dwarfs. PSO J318.5-22 is about 100 billion times fainter in optical light than Venus, and has approximately 6 times the mass of Jupiter.

Score Excerpt

green unpredictable (2014)
for stereo fixed media

data for sonification provided by Ursula Ruiz Vera

green unpredictable is an electronic sonification of 4 days worth of data from an experiment measuring photosynthesis in maize. The data provides 14 measurements for 437 discrete specimen/day combinations, including values for stomatal conductance, temperature, carbon dioxide concentration, and humidity. Each of the 437 data points is treated as a musical event. For each event, values from the data are rescaled and mapped onto musical parameters such as start time, duration, pitch, number and density of overtones/undertones, modulating frequencies of multiple parameters, amplitude envelopes, stereo field locations, and reverb settings. Four different plant treatments were used in the experiment, so a different synthesizer (type of sound) is used to represent each treatment. The listener will hear the four synthesizers operating in a complex counterpoint, wherein all characteristics of each synth are manipulated according to the musical values derived from the data. The data was transformed into musically useful values using Grace, an app developed by UIUC composition professor Rick Taube. The synthesizers were created by the composer using SuperCollider.

Water Lettuce (2014)
for saxophone quartet

The U of I Graduate Saxophone Quartet
Hyung-Ryoul Kim, soprano
Nicki Roman, alto
Pin-Hua Chen, tenor
Robert Palermo, baritone

Water Lettuce is inspired by the famous Water Lilies paintings of French Impressionist Claude Monet. I recently observed some of these fine paintings during a visit to Chicago. In Water Lettuce, novel colors are crafted for the saxophone quartet, using chords drawn from an irregular microtonal scale with 16 pitches to the octave. Edges between harmonic events are blurred via heavily staggered, irregular counterpoint and near-constant fluctuations in the pace of change. As a result of these techniques, chords often overlap temporarily, and morph into each other in unexpected ways. The quartet is treated as a single organ-like spectral instrument; there is little notion of melody, or of the instruments as individual agents.

Pseudoku Redux (2011)
for piano 4-hands

Whitney Ashe & Tomoko Ono, piano

Pseudoku Redux is a 4-hands expansion of Pseudoku 1, a highly demanding work for solo piano. All of the material from Pseudoku 1 is retained in the expansion. An additional system/layer is imposed to imbue registral variety, which can be treated with considerable flexibility due to the presence of 4 hands. Dynamics and phrasing are added intuitively to highlight the results of the aforementioned processes.

Score Excerpt

Funeral Music (2006) (Mvmt. III)
for 3 unspecified instruments

Beth Trower, viola
M.O. Abbott, trombone
Tomoko Ono, piano

Funeral Music is intended for use at funerals and memorial services, or may be used as a concert/recital piece. This meditation on death is cast in 3 movements, all of which feature a strict algorithmic 3-voice chorale-like texture. The performance above was dedicated to my cat Padding, who unexpectedly succumbed to acute kidney failure at 14+ years of age in Summer 2015.

Foretaste (2000)
for solo cello

Kevin McFarland, cello

Foretaste is representative of a highly minimalist phase of my early aesthetic development, which occurred while I was an undergraduate studying at Eastman School of Music. The piece was originally intended for solo trombone, but it turns out to work much better on solo cello, as evidenced by Kevin McFarland's memorable impromptu performance of the piece at New Music on the Point in Summer 2015.

Score Excerpt

Gaffed (1999)
for alto flute and oboe

Melody Chua, alto flute
Amelia Lee, oboe

Gaffed is representative of my work from 1998-1999. At this time I chose to distill my compositional technique by working with very small amounts of musical information, and unforgivingly developing this material according to extremely strict, simple algorithmic rules and processes. The result is music with almost no dramatic content, music with no climax and no nadir.

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