Time and Motion Study 1

Brian Ferneyhough

  • Year of composition: 1971-77
  • Duration: 11:38
  • Instrumentation: bass clarinet


ISRC CAA4J1810016

  • 44,1 kHz, 16 bits

Some words of performance instruction that says it all are: “possibile; molto furioso; lusingendo; enfatico; molto giusto; calmando; deliberate e pesante; espansivo; flessible; delicato; rapido; spettrale; with utmost violence…”

The densely worked and complex textures prevailing throughout much of this composition are, in a large part, a direct reflection of its dual point of origin. The title is intended to suggest both a desire to integrate the concept of efficiency as applied to the relationship between the performer, notation and realisation more explicitly into the fabric of the material and its organization than is perhaps customary, and the conviction that time is most usefully conceived of, not merely in a linear but also in a vertical fashion (i.e. as a function of the mutual interaction of several distinct and layered process-types). Both of these concerns seem to me most effectively exposed in works for a small number of performers. The employment, as here, of a single instrument — one, moreover, restricted to a single-strand, monophonic texture — allows for a direct confrontation with the internal polyphony of a musical gesture or process in a way which more overtly multiplex structures might actually serve to disguise or even hinder completely. The linearity of Time and Motion Study I is thus “exploded” into its component elements in a way as to enable each of them to be treated as an independent entity, to be expanded, made more diffuse, or eliminated altogether at will. By these means a number of linear “tendencies” were generated which serve to dictate the degree of focus which the discourse may assume at any given juncture. The textures produced can, in their turn, be understood as points of departure for new chains of tangential activity, or organised ambiguity, of processuality: in short, of verticality.

Further polyphonic layers are suggested by the degree to which the learning-rituals of the performer are audibly incorporated into the gestural flow of events. In order to learn Time and Motion Study I, the interpreter needs to be prepared to admit the possibility of his/her performing technique being made translucent to individual inadequacy, since the structural information thus provided is meant to refer the listener back to the “real-time” activity of learning and, even, of composing the piece in the first place. The performance and the work object are both intended to be stages in a continuum, not an end in themselves. In a complicated (and complex) situation, only complex (if not necessarily complicated) reactions seem to me appropriate. Music needs to be both self-reflexive and self-critical: Time and Motion Study I seeks to reconcile these conflicting demands through its insistence upon a closed, cogent form which, in all other respects, is open.

Brian Ferneyhough