Tautology and Translation (2012)
for clarinet, cello, piano, and percussion


commissioned by Talea Ensemble

Tautology and Translation is in part an analysis of these four instruments and their combination. This analysis proceeds mostly by means of doubling (“tautology”), and in particular through the translation of idiomatic techniques from one instrument to the others.

In each movement, the “named” instrument’s registral, acoustic, and technical properties filter and constrain the overall field of possibility for the other instruments. They imitate this temporary leader, attempt to adapt their natural qualities to it or find the very small point of intersection between their technique and its. This requires them to display considerable flexibility, ingenuity, and maybe even a bit of bravery (the resonant, stringed body of the cello attempting to reproduce the dry, pixelated blips of a percussion battery; the piano resorting to playing on its guts with a guitar slide to double the cello’s smooth, idiomatic glissandi...).

Yet the underpinning for this idea is that translation (or metaphor) lies at the heart of creativity-- the transfer of an idea, structure, or feeling from one domain to the other is the original creative act. Or call it "representation": to re- present the world to a listener/viewer through painting (visual doubling), description (doubling through language), mimesis (sonic doubling) is the essential mechanism by which art operates. In this piece each time the percussion imitates the cello or a clarinet technique is transferred to the piano it can also be thought of as a description, an analysis, a 'framing' of some aspect of that instrument.

instrumentation: clarinet/bass clarinet, cello, percussion, piano

duration: 14'
date: 2012