Eric Stokes: Whittlings

Whittlings (1992)
by Eric Stokes

This one-movement work is composed as a sonic metaphor on the art of whittling. Imagine an experienced craftsman working on a block of fine-grained wood with very sharp blades. The artisan’s task is to shape the outcome by taking away much of the woodblock. One could take the view that the saxophone is to some degree the agent of the whittler or the actual whittling instrument but that view is much too simplistic. Imagine instead that all of the sounds made by the players (including the sax) are the literal actions taken in the process of paring away at the sonic possibilities inherent in the Zeitgeist ensemble. One other element to consider is the 22-beat pattern which repeats incessantly throughout Whittlings. In one way, that might be heard as the gestures of the whittler(s). In another way, one might also hear the repeating beat pattern as the actual block of material on which the whittlers, including the composer, are at work, paring away sound by sound. Finally, we are left to contemplate nothing more nor less than our own memory of our experience in hearing the performance. Did a whittled object emerge as an artifact, a memory of the metaphorical process? Or as Yeats writes in his poem “Among School Children,” are we left with a philosophical puzzle:

O body swayed to music, O brightening glance, How can we know the dancer from the dance?

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Eric Stokes: Tintinnabulary (Phonic Paradigm IV)

Tintinnabulary (Phonic Paradigm IV) (1983)
by Eric Stokes

Tintinnabulary: “of or pertaining to the ringing of bells”

— American Heritage Dictionary (1969)

In composing such a piece, several orders and types of struck, reverberant objects were used. The resulting sounds were recorded. By means of simple procedures, unique properties of these recorded sounds found distinctive places in the compositional plan. Composition therefore, in this instance, was and is a function of foresight and afterthought.

The compositional goal remains: “to ring some few of the sounding world’s most multitudinous tintinnabularies.”

Born to song and loving sound’s venture I still seek to celebrate that love and birthright.

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Eric Stokes: The Pickpocket is Lyrical Two

The Pickpocket is Lyrical, Two (1994)
by Eric Stokes

I. Bull ‘Gine ‘n’ Tarriers

II. Breath Can Blow Both Ways

…hot on cold fingers

…cold on hot soup

III. Pop the Whip

IV. Go ‘Way From My Window

…from my door

…my bedside

…bother me no more

V. Over the Deep Blue Moon

The Pickpocket is Lyrical Two incorporates several folk melodies (and a few of the composer’s own) in a fairly straightforward setting rich in lyricism and humor.

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Eric Stokes: Susquehannas

Susquehannas (1985)
by Eric Stokes

I. Nostrum

1. a pet scheme for the solution of some problem;
2. from the Latin, “on our own” (i.e., invented and made by the seller, especially in reference to patent medicines).

II. Buffalo Bones … all the way to Medicine Hat.

III. Whangdoodles

1. mythical creatures of ill-defined characteristics, sometimes noisy, mischievous or nocturnal; 
2. apprehensions resulting from the believed perception of such creatures.

The title of Susquehannas refers in part to the convergence of streams like Cherry Valley, Lick-Run, Tunkhannock, Hop Bottom, and Tuscarora in the Eastern mountains. The early people who lived along those banks called themselves the Susquehanna.

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