Melt (2006) for marimba, real-time sound processing and pre-recorded sounds


Melt is one of a series of works in which I investigate different configurations of the relationship between performer, technology and the ‘composed object’, This series was initiated in 1993 with AfterImage (for baroque flute and fixed media) and continued with Time to consider (for solo harpsichord) and Trace (for clarinet, piano and concealed CD player). 


In Melt the ‘algorithms’ involved in compositional decisions are intimately linked to those which drive the live electronics – causing fragmentation, overlap, mimesis, re-ordering of events, acceleration and deceleration, and so on. The scoring of the work ranges from 'conventional' fixity to a Lutoslawski-like utilisation of materials which are entirely predetermined in some respects (pitch sequence, harmonic field, gesture profile, etc) while remaining improvised with respect to synchronisation or exact timing. Similarly the relationship between percussion and electronics varies from almost entirely predictable (from a performer’s viewpoint) and predetermined, to a situation in which the particular algorithm involved produces results which require genuine real-time decision making which may substantially affect the shape of the work.


The material of the piece refers tangentially to several previous works (particularly Time to consider) but is reworked in a manner which allows it to be idiomatic for an entirely different instrument and an entirely different performer. The piece was written for Mel Puga between February and May 2006, and premiered at the University of East Anglia in June 2006.