Miasamata (2008)

A nineteenth-century conception of a cholera epidemic, from the NIH.

Throughout history many people have believed that disease could be caused by a “miasma,” which is a cloud of toxic vapors or otherwise polluted, foul air. “Miasmata” is either the plural of “miasma,” or it can indicate the actual filthy little particles that make up the nasty gas. Because of the reputation recorders have for being out of tune and unlovely in the hands of anyone aside from the most devoted professionals, I decided to write a piece where the performers are asked to foul a pristine musical structure by playing rather noisily and out of tune. I added a set of ocarinas as well to further pollute the sound environment.

At any time the performers play notes from a given three-pitch chord. Each of twelve different-sounding three-pitch chords will be played exactly twice, sometimes as a harmony, sometimes as a melody, and sometimes as a sparse or dense texture. At the same time the electronics play the other nine pitches with stinky timbres.