On Fragments for Quasar saxophone quartet has emerged out of my search to engage with the topic of work and organisation of labour through musical means. I took the idea of automation and organisation as meta topics to reflect on the work that goes into composition and the work of an ensemble in itself. I closely collaborated with Quasar on the creation of compositional materials where I asked players to embody field recording sounds both sonically and through physical movement. The field recordings used in this piece are of construction work sites from a neighbourhood in Montreal which was badly hit by post-industrialisation in 1950s. However they were recorded in 2012 during Griffintown’s rapid housing redevelopments on remnants of historical sites, ruined mills and settlements.
The story of automation is developed along with a fragment of text from Paul Mason’s Post Capitalism: A Guide to Our Future where it is deemed both a progressive and regressive force in our society. After the quartet goes through a sequence of four different fragments which are to various degrees a mix of score interpretation, sonically embodied field recordings, gesturally embodied sounds, and looped repetitions of phrases, they come to the ending of the piece where players have more freedom to improvise with graphic score instructions. Here, they are also using elements of live electronic processing thus working with the machines that are responsible in the creation of the piece such as looping, pitch shifting, and granular freezing. At the end of the piece, the graphic score is a lose suggestion on the possible textures that could be used in order to shape each section of the improvisation, however, players also have freedom to not use it and to create a short two minute improvisation based on the four field recording fragments.
I am grateful to Quasar Saxophone Quartet for their time and dedication in developing On Fragments .