by Dan Trueman
Instrumentation: strings, percussion, and electronics
Traps Relaxed is an expanded version of Traps, which I composed for string quartet and electric violin/laptop in March 2003, as the 2nd Gulf War began. Traps Relaxed, composed during the run-up to the elections of 2004, follows a similar process as did Traps, so I’ll begin by including some notes from the original Traps: “ While I don’t usually get technical in program notes, but here goes… Traps is a delicate exploration of a simple process I call “traps.” A trap is a way of forcing whatever note I play to be transposed to a single pitch (or set of pitches); while I play, the computer remembers that last couple seconds of what I have played and then, depending on the note that I play, transposes it’s memory to the “trap” pitch. So, for instance, when the trap is a high F, if I play an A below that, the “trap” will, some short time later, transpose my remembered A up a minor-sixth, so it sounds a high-F. The only “problem” is that sometimes the trap’s memory might be long enough to remember other pitches I had played prior to the A, say, a low open D-string, so that D will also get transposed up a minor-sixth, to B-flat, yielding a not-quite-simultaneous sonority D–B-flat–A–F. This is precisely how Traps begins, and it continues slowly through a series of ascending traps, some of which are single notes, others two-note traps.” Traps Relaxed starts similarly to the original Traps, but gradually diverges, relaxing into possibilities offered by the larger ensemble, and ending up half-again as long (about 13 minutes). In tonight’s performance, I am using eight hemispherical speakers to distribute the sounds of the “traps” throughout the ensemble. These speakers, which I designed with my father and Perry Cook, radiate sound more like conventional instruments and, if things go well, should help the electronic sounds emerge seamlessly from the acoustic ensemble. I have used these speakers with smaller ensembles, but never on this scale before, and I can safely say that I would never have composed this piece without them; I simply can’t imagine this piece realized with a conventional PA system. Traps Relaxed was commissioned by the American Composers Orchestra, Steven Sloane, music director; Robert Beaser, artistic director; Dennis Russell Davies, conductor laureate, for its “Orchestra Underground” series. It was composed while supported by an Artist Fellowship from the New Jersey Council on the Arts.
First Performance Information:
Premiered at Zankel Hall/Carnegie Hall, 2005
Commissioned by the American Composers Orchestra