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Suspensions of Disbelief

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Uploaded on Jan 22, 2011

The Detour New Music Ensemble performs Tom Swafford's Suspensions of Disbelief at Galapagos Art Space, Brooklyn NY.
I have spent most of the last couple of years writing music that references various genres or has theatrical elements. I decided to go in a new direction and write a piece that is only about sound and structure. I based it on two lines moving out and back in again in contrary motion. I made ample use of suspensions (hence the title). My goal was to provide a clear sense of tension and release on both a large and a small scale. The piece consists of long tones and three faster recurring ideas: an ascending line, a flute flourish and a line that both ascends and descends.

I have been thinking lately about the meaning that we attach to sounds. They might have extra-musical meaning (for example in a theatrical piece where you associate a sound with a gesture or a character), or they might have meaning because you recognize them either as quotations or references to other musical styles, or sounds can acquire significance based on how they are presented in the context of the piece. I tried to do the latter in this case. I want you to have the sense that every sound has a kind of importance, a reason to be there, and relates somehow to rest of the piece; that the piece is leading somewhere and when it ends you experience a strong sense of arrival, as if the ending is inevitable. This is, of course, nothing new at all and quite a conservative approach really. I'm just attempting to do it using very limited material. I like the idea of distilling music down to its essential elements.

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