Descent (2008)

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Commissioned by Daniel Lippel and premiered by him on September 24, 2008 at the Tank in New York, NY.


Descent for solo electric guitar was composed in the summer of 2008 for guitarist Dan Lippel. Its title refers primarily to the piece’s gradual movement from a high tessitura to an unusually low one. The score calls for an alternate tuning of the guitar (C-G-D-A-B-E) which extends the instrument's lower register and changes its timbral characteristics significantly. However, the first section of the piece is played with a capo on the 8th fret, thus confining the piece’s initial materials to a higher range. Complimenting the tonal quality resulting from this tuning and use of the capo is a quasi-baroque, ornamental style of writing which alternates between lute-like, delicate passagework and thicker, heavier textures and chords.

The registral descent which directs the work’s course is paralleled by another continuous progression from a relatively “clean” amplified sound in the beginning to a very distorted and compressed sound by the work’s conclusion. The distortion in the second half of the piece interacts with the musical materials and playing techniques in different ways. On the one hand, the distortion enahnces the impact and weight of the more climactic moments and amplifies or even exaggerates cerain passages which would be very delicate and nearly inaudible on an acoustic instrument. On the other hand, this latter feature is taken to an extreme in the coda, where the austerity and quiet of the material is subverted by the artificial loudness and extroverted quality of the distorted electric guitar.

Descent was premiered by Dan Lippel on September 24th at the Tank, NYC. The recording is an excerpt from the premiere performance.