Composer: Gene Coleman
For saxophone quartet and electronics

**Commissionned by Quasar

This composition is an exploration of the auditory pathway of the brain, including the three mechanical stages of hearing (outer, middle and inner ear functions), the auditory nerves and the various stages of auditory information processing, ending in the neocortex and so-called Frontal Networks. My models for each stage of the composition come from the research of Lloyd Watts, who has mapped the auditory pathway of the brain, Eugene Izhikevich, from his research on synapse function in the book Dynamical Systems in Neuroscience and the authors of Auditory Neuroscience, which has greatly informed my understanding of the physics of sound and auditory neuroscience. My intention is to create music that is based directly on the ways in which we humans perceive, react to, and understand sound.

Scored for the Quasar Saxophone Quartet with recorded shamisen, guitar and electronics, the musical material of the work is derived from the Flamenco composition Jacaras and traditional Gidayu Shamisen music. I wanted show links between these two types of music, which then become a new language when translated to the saxophone quartet. The recording of the shamisen part was made in Tokyo, working with the great Sansuzu Tsuruzawa, who has been honored as an “intangible cultural asset” by the Japanese Government. For the guitar and electronics part, I worked with Jonah Rosenberg in New York. Due to the pandemic, much of the production and editing of the recording was done remotely during the spring and summer of 2020.

The musical “source codes” are transformed by representations of the mechanical stages of hearing, the synapses of the auditory nerves and “geometric actions”, which represent the concept of auditory scene analysis in various stages of the auditory pathway. At the Limbic stage emotions begin to move us, before what we call “thinking” has begun. The final stages of the work feature a circuit-like structure using multiphonics, followed by the emergence of the Jacaras music in more and more recognizable form.

This work utilizes new playing methods for all the instruments. The shamisen and guitar plectrums are used to draw geometric shapes on the strings, which must be done with a high degree of accuracy in order to create the proper sonorities. There are Circular, Triangular and Square actions called for, each of which produces different sound characteristics. The rhythm, speed, loudness and specific articulation of each action further contribute to its unique character. The saxophones use various breath noises as part of noise-tone constructions similar to vowels and consonants. The patterns produced by these actions fuse with the electronic sounds to produce sonic images of information processing and the behavior of waveforms in air, water and electrical fields.

          - G. Coleman


This work was commissionned by Quasar with the financial support of the Quasar Creative Fund.