On the Nature of the Glissando  project by Guy de Bièvre

for 3 (or more) sliding instruments, synthesizer, CD and video


Sliding tones, portamentos, or glissandi, as they are sometimes called, are not usually considered in musical theory, but it is our belief that they should be. (Henry Cowell)

Stuck there, so to speak, a naturalistic atavism, a barbaric rudiment from premusical days, is the gliding voice, the glissando, a device to be used with the greatest restraint on profoundly cultural grounds; I have always been inclined to sense in it an anti-cultural, anti-human appeal. (Thomas Mann, Doktor Faustus)

This project by Guy de Bièvre follows these performance instructions:

The piece consists exclusively of glissandi. Performers should slide from one note to the next it is connected to by a solid line. Connected series of more than two notes can be interrupted on any of the notes and continued from there on (e.g. to change between strings, or because the performer feels like it). Series have to be interrupted where there is an interruption. At each interruption the performer has to wait at least until one of the other performers has reached a point of interruption before continuing.

The general tempo is very slow, the piece lasts 30 minutes. If a performer reaches then end of the score before the 30 minutes, then he/she should go back to the beginning. Each performer should have his/her own tempo, no agreements should be made beforehand.

The live performance is accompanied by randomly shuffled CD tracks (2 CDs, quad setup), containing synthesizer glissandi, and voices reading the text fragments on glissandi by Henry Cowell and Thomas Mann. Next to this a randomly organised video interpretation of the video score is projected above or on the musicians.

The video score contained, similar to the audio, a number of cells with and without instructions. A certain route played through the score was devised. For each cell, a video-segment was selected that contained a visual glissando. These cells were fed into a database and played by a randomizer.

Listen, Sint-Lukas, Gent, Belgium, May 20, 2010
Guy de Bièvre (lapsteel, CD and electronics), Kristof Rosseeuw (double bass),
Thomas Smetryns (guitar), Sofia von Bustorff (video realization).

documentation: Esther Venrooy; and stills from videodocumentation;
more video stills, a sound file, and ..coming up.. a short video.