Canterbury Christ Church University Composition Inside the Machine

Inside the Machine Concert Part 4

On the 28th April 2016 I put on a concert which featured a mixture of some of my favourite open-scored, chance-based, and quasi-composed/quasi-improvised pieces to both celebrate and summarise the three years I spent studying my Bachelor of Music at Canterbury Christ Church University.

The piece I’m going to discuss in this entry to the series – (yes I know it’s a few years late) – is the first of many works that use child-like playfulness as part of its process.

it takes all sorts began with a simple question:

  • What would happen if I gave performers an unlikely sensory input for them to respond from?
  • Performers are used to responding through hearing, and even sight. Perhaps I could use taste?
  • What is the easiest thing to purchase in quantity, with variety, and is cost effective? – SWEETS!

And so it began: the least complicated score I’ve written. The instructions are simple:

  1. Choose which sweets who want to use.
  2. Blindfold the performers
  3. Roll a six-sided die for each perform to decide how many sweets they get, and give them said number.
  4. Performers are to respond vocally to how ever they wish all elements of the sweet.

That’s pretty much it. The only two things I specified were that they must only use their voice, (although this rule was relaxed for later performances), and for the responses to be more interesting than “yuck” or “yum”.

By only allowing vocalisations allows the performers equitable freedom to their responses, and to have that response connected as directly to the experience as possible. The blindfolds are there to enhance the sensitivity of smells, tastes and textures, while also providing cover for the more inhibited performers. Unintentionally, this changed the score from a solo or ensemble work, to one of many simultaneous solo performances, adding multiple layers of indeterminacy that I would not be able to manufacture (and why would I want to?).

It was also mentioned to me by a few friends that I had accidentally devised a piece which allowed the performers to experience a fraction of hyper-sensitivity to taste and texture – something which I experience as an autistic. Performers have also mentioned that they were unaware of how intense some of the textures are of different flavour Jelly Beans™ (not affiliated). For example, the coconut flavour was apparently very ‘gritty’.

I would argue that this is one of my least complicated scores. There isn’t really anything academic about it, (I’m sure I could try), but rather it’s for the “why not?”.

My quest for you, the reader, is try this out for yourself, even if you’re not making vocal sounds. Blindfold yourself and try something you eat a lot off, or that you could consider quite mundane, and you’ll find that you’re experience will be enhanced. 


The next entry in this series will talk about last piece in the concert Contingent Extemporisation


30th July 2022
Johanne-Bryce Hodgson

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