music theater for two percussionists and referee

Premiered in 1982 at California Institute of the Arts
Performed at the Video Susreti Festival – Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, March 15, 1991
Published by Chez Vees Music (formerly Leisure Planet Music)

(P)LAYER(S) is a piece for two percussionists and referee which combines the structure of musical form with the rules of a sports event. The players work their way through a rigorous series of modules or excerpts, while at the same time maintaining a harmonic background with a specific pair of chimes (his identifying interval). Once the piece begins, the chimes should not be permitted to fade to silence. This is what the referee is listening for, with the assistance of headphones. Should the aforementioned fading happen to a given player’s chimes, the referee calls a foul on him. As the piece progresses, the modules from which the players choose become longer and more difficult. When one of the players has tallied five fouls, the piece is over.

Although it is very enjoyable, and has a lot of fun built into it, there are two serious issues lurking underneath the surface which this piece addresses. The first is the problem of drama in music. In traditional opera and music theater, the drama is usually a reflection of a simultaneously running narrative. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this arrangement, it does seem that it works almost too well, as to obscure other possible relationships between these two elements. One of the goals here is to undo this co-processing, or at least make it more self-reflexive. The second issue is dealt with so obviously, it could be overlooked, or if the piece is very successful, recognized only subconsciously. This is the problem of open form. Actually, there are several problems, but one or two are brought up here. How is one to appreciate a modular construction when little, if no indication is perceived by a listener as to just what a module is? In this piece, modules are clearly articulated by the players’ choices. The dark humor is that, unlike an earlier era, there are consequences for wrong choices, and these are the ones which point out the underlying structure.

[add picture of first page of score?]