A Fabric of Seams (1990)
eight players

Robert Morris

Program Notes

A Fabric of Seams is an octet of fifteen minutes' duration written for three instrumental units: a woodwind trio (flute, clarinet, and bassoon); french horn and piano; and string trio. The units are spacially separated in order to project their own, often differing musical processes. Each group has its own set of sonic signatures which affect the linear character and intervalic contour of its own music. Simultaneously, the very same signatures are used harmonically, uniformly coloring entire sections of the whole ensemble's music. It turns out that the melodic/harmonic interaction of the three signature sets, while vastly intricate, provides sufficient constraint to establish a unique form for the music's progress. As a salient side-effect, any of the signature combinations make saturations of the chromatic pitch aggregate gradual rather than immediate.

The piece's title alludes to the way I thought about composing with the abstract signature material. Rather than a mosaic of tiles, combinations of notes resemble a flexible quilt of relations that can be folded, bunched, sewn and biased in any number of ways. Moreover, swatches of material are not simply pinned-together, but are stitched or even interwoven. The many necessary but often hidden seams allow my three colored ribbons of sound-fabric to retain many different kinds of shape and texture, and, like clothing, to suggest a multitude of corporalities.