By which I mean this--Electrobot--is, I think, the last bot in the series of bots I've been composing every year since 2008. Octobot->Polybot->Babybot->Electrobot. Somewhere in the middle of the series I decided to capitalize as a general title policy, so probably it's more like octobot->polybot->Babybot->Electrobot, without retroactive capitalization. Because this matters.
I'm here, writing, because making Electrobot has been a singular process, and I wanted to take note of the ways in which it was surprising to me, and also just take some notes on where I am in the piece, what I need to do to get it done, and why it feels like either the end of the bot series or, maybe, a kind of postscript, a way I've sort of melded the thinking I do as a solo performer with the thinking that the players will have to do as they figure this piece out.
It will look like nothing on the page, oversimple, because what the player sees is markedly different than what the player will hear when s/he is wired, i.e. plugged into the laptop with the software running. Every note struck triggers a longer sample with its own groove, and if everyone does their part and stays metronome-precise, the samples interlock, which you hear one way as the piece begins to move along, and then an entirely different way as it pushes towards a moment in the center when Something Happens.
The piece is, then, a kind of leap of faith. The performers will practice this nothing-seeming piece on faith that Something will happen when I plug them in, and I write this Something-seeming piece on faith that these young, precocious, wildly talented players will not laugh when they get piano music in the mail.
About that: Roland was supposed to loan us 4 SPD-X controllers for this piece, which is why its alternate title is "Fundingbot," but that fell through. So now we're using Axiom-25s. And I'm not using their pads, I just decided. So this piece for percussion quartet at this reputable summer institute for percussionists has these mallet-and-stick-wielding young lions essentially playing keyboard parts.
Still to do: make sure that, for all the excitement of Something Happening in the center, the beginning and end are as straightforward and playable as possible. This requires much more work on my part, essentially rewiring my brain to think of these grooves in a whole new way, so I can notate them in the way that makes the most sense for the players, but it also contributes to the feeling that this is a nothing-seeming piece, on its surface, that they will open up their envelopes and be disappointed that they didn't get a showcase. And I need to map the samples onto the keyboard in a way that makes the most sense for a non-pianist to approach. Those are two big jobs. But it's exciting and satisfying work. It feels like creating a whole world, like a door is blowing open.
In general that's the feeling around the office these days. Electricity. The sense that things are transforming, and that the conditions that bring about a new quartet every summer might just change before our eyes, might be changing now before our eyes.