Lockstep Variations

flute, Bb clarinet, violin, cello, percussion and 2 electrified snare drums

to the New York New Music Ensemble, 2018

14 minutes

When listening to electronic music in the concert hall, we often encounter a disconnect between sonic presence and visual absence: we hear sounds, but do not see their origins. This incongruity has always fascinated me, and in Lockstep Variations I wanted to heighten it by placing speakers inside of two snare drums flanking the ensemble. While the drums sound acoustic, they are in fact stimulated electronically; the absence of a visual stimulus creates a pair of phantom musicians, two disembodied drummers who are spatially and gesturally enmeshed with the acoustic ensemble.

I was drawn to the snare drum because of its historical origin as an instrument of the battlefield, where it was used as a tool to organise troops and their movements. Here, the drums take on the role of a controller, a source of repetitious, patterned energy which obliges players to act, urges them to synchronize, and compels them to move. Some players oblige, some disobey. The movements the drums dictate - and the resistance they encounter - is outlined in four distinct sections: March Step, Gridlock, Transmission, Rail Line.


The Riot Ensemble: Richard Craig - Flute; Ausias Garrigos Morant - Clarinet; George Barton - Percussion; Sarah Saviet - Violin; Louise McMonagle - Cello; Aaron Holloway-Nahum - Conductor, 2020

Score Samples