Selected Score Excerpts of M.O. Abbott


cDa29 (tetrachromat) (2017)
for 16 instruments

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.



Ascension Tube (2017)
for mixed sextet

Ascension Tube was originally composed for a reading session by the Bang on a Can All-Stars at University of Illinois in Spring 2017. It was subsequently revised for the present instrumentation (bass clarinet to baritone saxophone, and cello to viola.) The title Ascension Tube originates from the oft forgotten TV show Galactica 1980. This spin-off of the original Battlestar Galactica was first aired in early 1980 in the U.S. and lasted only 10 episodes before its very poor reception led to its cancellation. Galactica 1980 begins 5 years after the conclusion of the original series, with the Galactica and its fleet arriving at present-day (c. 1980) Earth. Unlike the original series, most of the action in 1980 is set on Earth rather than in space, presumably to cut production costs. Crew members of the Galactica often find Earth culture baffling, and they sometimes have their own way of describing Earth phenomena. In Episode 8, "The Night the Cylons Landed, Part II", Lieutenant Dillon uses the term ascension tube to refer to an ordinary elevator in a New York City skyscraper.



Ambergris (2016)
for flute, trombone, violin, and contrabass

Ambergris was composed for a reading session by ensemble mise-en at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in April 2016. The work demonstrates one possible scheme for musically interpreting the contents of a Sudoku. Ambergris's quasi-serial compositional procedure is very similar to that employed in my 2015 piece Lost Lozenge, and the two can be considered sister pieces. Ambergris is a solid, waxy, flammable substance of a dull grey or blackish color, that is produced in the digestive system of sperm whales.



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

PSO J318.5-22 was constructed intermittently over several years for no ensemble in particular, and ended up being premiered to my great delight by Illinois Modern Ensemble in Foellinger Great Hall in April 2015. Systematic procedures were used to develop the pitch and rhythmic material. Considerable manual effort was expended to enhance the results of this algorithm, for example with respect to tempi, orchestration, and dynamics. The title refers to the rogue planet of the same name. In the near future, I plan to revise PSO J318.5-22 for slightly smaller forces.



Palaver (2013)
for 3 musicians

Palaver is a graphically notated score that concerns itself with a systematic presentation of permutations of the set {1, 2, 3}. Any 3 continuous-pitch instruments can perform the piece. Examples of acceptable instruments include violin, voice, theremin, trombone, fretless electric bass, and slide guitar. Each intrument needs to be capable of producing 3 distinct "timbres" or modes of playing, and be capable of switching between them quickly. I encourage performers to use electronic means to assist in creating and managing their timbres.



Transistor (2012)
for voice and piano

Transistor is an art song. The words in the text were drawn unordered from a random word generator and organized into a semi-coherent pseudo-poem that seems like it might mean something, although no precise meaning is intended. The pitch material is manipulated via a quasi-serial scheme employing rotation and additive/subtractive procedures. The setting of that pitch material, and the resultant pseudo-word painting, were conceived intuitively.



Pseudoku Redux (2011)
for piano 4-hands

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.



Foretaste (2000)
for solo cello

Foretaste is representative of a more 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.




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