Posts Tagged ilinx

Ilinx (2014), for percussionist and ensemble

Ilinx (2014) is a sixty minute composition in six episodes written for percussionist Aiden McKee and a fifteen member ensemble. The work exploits and celebrates the gestures that musicians make, taking movement as a central element of the composition. Yet it is not a dance or theater, but an exaggeration of the functional movements that we see at the concert hall. Physical movements of the performing musician, which are traditionally considered secondary in the concert hall, are foregrounded in Ilinx. Movement becomes as important as sound itself, and together they are bound into a unique artistic gesture.

The score asks for unusual arrangements of the percussion instruments, requiring the soloist to move over large distances, to maneuver at times in great speed, to use awkward postures and winding routes in order to reach instruments, and to whirl as in a dance. Each episode focuses on a particular acoustic topic and its relations with movement: in one episode the percussionist runs hectically between drums scattered onstage and in the aisles, in another he interacts with the audience with tiny, barely audible instruments, making soft intimate sounds. Other episodes have him crawling through paper and rattles, playing a variety of hanging metallophones inside a ten-foot high tripod, surrounding an island of pitched percussion instruments and more.Each acoustic topic in Ilinx treats movement and space differently; together they trace an evolving performative behavior and attitude toward the audience. Ilinx takes us from personal intimacy and audience participation, through rituals, games and play, to frontal, distanced performance and even exclusion and alienation.

Meanwhile, the ensemble performs a parallel, seemingly disconnected set of short cues. The ensemble’s music feels like it is acting in opposition to the percussionist, performing either unseen or appearing in incomplete groups for brief moments. Their music is never synchronized with the percussion, and they seem to disregard the audience and the space. The musical and performative world of the ensemble emphasizes, by way of contrast, the vitality and essence of the physical and the visible: in this way Ilinx argues that all objects, space and movements are potent with sound and music. Ilinx strives to raise awareness of relations between musicians, space and objects, while encouraging us to reconsider the importance of movement in all performance.
The project is a result of a two-year process of research and creative work, as a part of my doctoral dissertation in music composition. The work was performed at the University of California Santa Cruz music center in November 2014.

[Sociologist Roger Caillois used the term Ilinx in his theory of play. He describes it as “an attempt to destroy momentarily the stability of perception and inflict a kind of voluptuous panic upon an otherwise lucid mind”. Ilinx is subversion and destruction of stability “brought about by a foregrounding of physical sensation, an awareness of the body set free from the normal structures of control and meaning.” (Caillois 1961, 23)]

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