Intended Assembly (2018)
Composer: William Kuo
For saxophone quartet, snare drum, tubes, water and electronic devices

The journey of each instrumentalist begins in roughly the same way: a combination of pedagogy and intuition orients the human body with the intended assembly of the instrument. Each act upon the instrument is met with resistance, from which sound arises through forces such as friction, velocity, and pressure. As a composer, I am driven by the possibility of encountering new identities formed by such resistance.

Ideas for this piece originated from earlier attempts to modify the clarinet using vinyl tubes of varying lengths. This preparation technique effectively lowered and narrowed the range of the instrument, such that each chromatic fingering produced a microtonal inflection with a darkened, muffled timbre. An unexpected discovery allowed clarinetist Liam Hockley and I to re-purpose the vinyl tube as an air pump that produced bubbling sounds inside a bucket of water. In the same configuration, the saxophone’s identity is temporarily suspended. Its intended assembly is reimagined with the addition of vinyl tubes and PEX pipes as new components of the instrument. Various other identities emerge: both the water bucket and snare drum become resonators, the latter by way of vibration speaker; the saxophonists are transformed into object manipulators. Through the act of composing, the haphazard becomes intended. Composition becomes a practice of re-purposed intents.