For cello and computer-generated sounds; 1984 ; Duration ca. 12:30

The title of the work, and much of its overall quality of expression, were suggested by passages from The Outermost House by Henry Beston. In these published journal entries, Beston recorded his observations and reflections during a solitary year he spent living in a cabin on a Cape Cod beach. The recurring image of two entities, forces or worlds merging into one is perhaps best reflected in the following passage:

    "At the foot of this cliff a great ocean beach runs north and south, mile lengthening into mile. Solitary and elemental, unsullied and remote, visited and possessed by the outer sea, these sands might be the end or the beginning of a world. Age by age, the sea here gives battle to the land; age by age, the earth struggles for her own, calling to her defense her energies and creations...The great rhythms of nature, today so dully disregarded, wounded even, have here their spacious and primeval liberty; cloud and shadow of cloud, wind and tide, tremor of night and day."

The seascapes and landscapes described by Beston are always changing and yet always the same. In somewhat analogous fashion, the cello line evolves continuously out of a single hexachordal (six note) idea, presented first in crystalline harmonics, then in a broad, rising melodic arc. Practically every note of the cello solo is derived from variants and transformations of this primal idea, which is also embedded within the harmonies and textures of the computer part. The computer-generated accompaniment consists primarily of synthetic sounds, generated by software programs, but also includes extensive processing and transformation of certain acoustic sound sources, such as whispering and lids from pots and pans. The cello and computer parts were conceived as distinct layers ("entities," or "forces") that periodically, perhaps rhythmically, fuse into one.

The computer part was realized on a PDP-11 computer system at the Eastman Computer Music Center. Principal software included Music11 (Vercoe) and score11 (Brinkman), CCSS software written by Robert Gross, and various utilities written by the composer.

PDF score excerpt
This is the first page of the score for Tremor of Night and Day

MP3 audio excerpt
This excerpt, featuring cellist Ignacio Alcover, begins about three minutes into the piece on page 5 of the score.
Duration : 2 minutes 22 seconds; size 4.3 MB ; encoding 256 kBit

Tremor of Night and Day was commissioned and premiered by Robert Sylvester. The composition of this work was supported by a National Endowment for the Arts composer's fellowship. It has been performed about 50 times on a variety of venues in North America, and in Europe on tours by several cellists including Phillipe Mueller and Judith Mitchell of the London-based Interfusion duo.

A compact disc recording of this work, performed by Ignacio Alcover, is available on Volume 8, CRC 2091, "The Virtuoso in the Computer Age" of the CDCM Computer Music Series.

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