Arcadesis a flexible-instrumentation work that may be realized by any combination of instruments covering the appropriate pitch ranges. The title is a gloss on Walter Benjamin’s unfinished “Arcades Project” (Passagenwerk), a cultural analysis of the Parisian covered pedestrian passages, the predecessor of the modern shopping mall.
A performance of Arcadesis essentially a group improvisation in which the players deploy the written materials provided to construct a series of virtual arcades that overlap in unpredictable ways. The work may be performed by as few as four players, but really, the more, the merrier; I think the piece might well achieve critical mass with around sixteen performers, and I can even imagine a Gottschalk-like “monster concert” realization, with hundreds of players.
In English and French, musical phrases are routinely referred to as “passages,” and indeed, as the musicians navigate through the written passages that make up the sonic arcades, the overall effect should be that of several different kinds of musical behaviors heard in juxtaposition, but with a certain common direction. The players feel their way through the piece from beginning to end, establishing and re-establishing consensus–an emergent sonic sociality, or perhaps a protean assemblage.
“There is no such thing as a common world,” Bruno Latour has said. “The common world is to be composed.” Rather, in the case of Arcades, and indeed in just about every case, that common world is actually improvised.
CoMA commission 2018
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