A Refutation of Gravity

four electric guitars, four drummers

Premiered in 1985 at California Institute of the Arts
Published by Chez Vees Music (formerly Leisure Planet Music)

There are two views of this piece I’d like to present in these notes. One approaches from a more constructionist, standard composerly angle, the other from a more experiential stance.

In the first, we might encounter talk of four basic building blocks (which there are) or types of sounds. These blocks may be added together with other blocks of similar types. This is prevalent in the earlier sections of the piece. Or they may be combined with dissimilar blocks, which happens more frequently toward the end. In between, the guitars and drums go through various procedures which zoom in on one or pan out to several of these components and plays some rather mundane composer games with them. The (hopefully) redeeming feature here is that the size of the meaningful unit is constantly changing. It’s similar to being presented with verbal writing which contains palindromes, but the level of palindrome continually switches from that of letters within words to words within phrases to phrases within sentences and back again.

On the other hand, this piece might be compared to sitting in the back seat of a car parked on a steep hill. The driver has run into a store to pick up a newspaper, and he’ll be right back. Without you noticing, the car starts to slowly roll down the hill. By the time your brain is convinced that you are, in fact, moving, you are, in fact, really moving. The quandary is whether to hop over the seat and grab the wheel (or hit the brakes), to jump out while it is still at a safe(?) speed, or to remain in the seat and count on clean living. We may never be able to solve this, but each time I hear (or play) this piece, I consider these options.

Critical praise:

“‘Refutation,’ the most interesting piece, featured four electric guitars and four percussionists who, when put together, formed one basic drum kit (snare, bass, tom, hat). This complex piece moved through three basic yet seamless movements. At times very smooth and relaxing, other times jarring and jagged-edged, the piece was consistently interesting. Vees has a knack for musical textures.” –Screamin’ Lord Duff, Music Connection