Bruised Rationals, subtitled “a poem with music”, is a ten-section text for a speaker accompanied by music, scored for five instrumental parts. Improvisation starts to play a role in section six. By the end of section ten the entire ensemble is improvising freely. The piece can be performed by a speaker and a quintet of mixed instruments (brass, wind, strings), or by a larger ensemble divided into five groups. The title is technical jargon for “the numbers that appear when a computer fouls up while converting from decimal to binary, and vice versa” (Wired magazine, 1995), e.g. 4.9999999 instead of 5. The original poem derives from material mostly written in the USA in 1994 and 1995, later revised in London. It has a cumulative structure, with each section using all the words from each previous section.
Bruised Rationals received several performances during 1995-96 by the composer with the London COMA Ensemble, at Spitalfields and the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, and in Oxford and Brighton.
Players need to be comfortable both reading and freely improvising. If played by a large ensemble, the improvised section(s) need to be guided by the conductor.
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