Ghost Dances
flutes and tape-delay system

Robert Morris

Program Notes

This piece, composed for Robert Dick in January-February 1980, is scored for piccolo, flute, alto-flute and bass-flute with tape-delay system. It is in fifteen movements which can be played in any order. Not all fifteen need to be played in any performance. Each movement is composed for a different combination of up to all four flutes. The role of the delay-system is multiple. It allows tones and textures to become sonic environments over which new material is projected; it can isolate as well as synthesize the material sent through it; it can permit canons and other contrapuntal forms to give rise to a multitude of heteraphonic and polyphonic designs; it can effect an apparent motion of sound through the performance space. All of these structural possibilities are carefully notated so that the flutist and tape-delay operator are engaged in an often tight ensemble coordination.

The title of the work (a native-American circle dance performed to communicate with the dead) suggests a ritualistic activity in which the remarkable textures and sounds invented by Robert Dick can project forms that connote a supernatural or magical sphere--one of palpable fantasy.