September 2008, Muriel Richardson Auditorium, Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg
Cheryl Pauls, Piano; GroundSwell
Falling in the Water for piano and electroacoustics is the second in a series of pieces I started working on in 2004. The first piece And Then I Crow for cello and electronics was completed in 2006 and premiered in Davis, California. For both these pieces the electronic part was composed using mostly the recorded voices of six teenage girls in a Leader-in-Training (LIT) program and their two women leaders of which I was one. I gathered the recordings in June and July of 2004, while I was the Director of this LIT program at Manitoba Pioneer Camp – a camp situated on Lake of the Woods in north-western Ontario. During my early twenties I worked at this camp for four months every summer. It was a wonderful experience, and I was always amazed by the changes and growth of the girls in the LIT program. I wanted to show others the resilience and strength of these teenage girls as they negotiated a challenging two-week canoe trip down a river and a demanding two-week leadership program at the site of the camp. With the permission of the camp and the girls in the program I documented as much as I could with a mini disc recorder. Falling in the Water is the result of a small portion of my recordings and focuses on our different experiences of water during the canoe trip portion of the program.
Because this piece was presented in a concert dedicated to Elliot Carter, I wished to pay homage to this great composer. As a graduate student I studied a number of Carter’s pieces and was fascinated by his use of ratios. In many of his pieces he uses obscure ratios such as 17:21 to determine the important stresses for his parts. (This ratio means that every 17 beats there is a stress in one part, while every 21 beats there is a stress in the other part.) Often the two parts only meet once or twice in the entire piece. In Falling in the Water I decided to try this approach by assigning the piece a ratio of 16:29 (16 was the average age of the LIT girls, while I was 29). I was curious to see how this kind of ratio could work. It was a fun and challenging way to compose, however as with many of Carter’s pieces this ratio can be difficult to hear during the performance.