Jacob David Sudol(b. Des Moines, Iowa 1980) writes intimate compositions that explore enigmatic phenomena and the inner nature of how we perceive sound. He recently finished his M.Mus. at McGill University and currently resides in La Jolla, CA where he is working towards a Ph.D. in composition at the University of California at San Diego with Roger Reynolds, Chinary Ung, Philippe Manoury, and Rand Steiger.
Over the last five years some of Jacob's mentors in composition have included John Rea, Denys Bouliane, Philippe Leroux, Sean Ferguson, Dan Asia, and Craig Walsh. He has also participated in master classes with Danish composer Bent Sørensen and German composer Manfred Stahnke.
During 2005-2006, Jacob was the first-ever composer-in-residence for the McGill Contemporary Music Ensemble under the direction of Denys Bouliane, in collaboration with the McGill Digital Composition Studio. He has also written music for the Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, the Contemporary Keyboard Society, percussionist Fernando Rocha, saxophonist Elizabeth Bunt, and clarinetist Krista Martynes. As an undergraduate at the University of Arizona, he composed the music for a collaborative dance project with choreographer Hillary Peterson, and he was the principal composer and pianist for El Proyecto de Santa Barbara, a chamber Latin jazz ensemble.
During the 2005 and 2007 Montréal/Nouvelles Musiques and 2006 MusiMars festivals Jacob was an electronic assistant for performances with Court-Circuit, Matt Haimovitz, Sara Laimon, Martin Matalon, Moritz Eggert, Manfred Stahnke, the Caput Ensemble, and the McGill Contemporary Music Ensemble. These concerts were broadcast by the CBC and the European Broadcasting Union in over fifty countries throughout the world. He is currently a studio research assistant for Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Roger Reynolds.
During his free time Jacob takes an active interest in religious phenomenology, cinema, acoustics, literature, poetry, and visual art. As a composer and performer, he always attempts to bring insights from these other fields into his work.
All music posted on this blog is posted out of love and the idea that for the truly great music of our time(s) to be known it must first and foremost be heard. If you like what you hear please support the artist by buying the recordings, scores, and/or encouraging the performances of the music in every way possible.
If you are the composer, performer, performing organization, artist or directly represent the composer, performer, performing organization, or artist of anything posted on this website and would like your material removed please contact me and I will happily oblige.
"Rumore sui” is the second in Denys Bouliane’s new trilogy of chamber works (the first being the previously posted ”Qualia sui" (2001-02) for piano trio and the final being “Tremore sui” for violin and piano (2004-)). The thematic linking in these works derives itself from the Latin word “sui” which means “of oneself." As the trilogy progresses a there is a progression towards a deeper level of introspective probing.
The two movements in "Rumore sui" are essentially two views on the same musical material -- the first movement an extroverted view and the second an introverted view. The second movement of this work with its early culminating vortex and the following hypnotic shattered modal faux-music-box is quite possibly my favorite of all of Denys's works.
Socrates said that “No evil can happen to a good man, either in life or after death” and I think that the same holds true for good memories. This latter idea is a perennial theme in song, for example at the end of “Blood on the Tracks” Bob Dylan finds consolation after catharsis singing Little red wagon, little red bike/I ain’t no monkey but I know what I like/I like the way you love me strong and slow,/I’m taking you with me, honey baby, when I go and Tom Waits more simply centers one of his finest songs “Take it With Me” around a chorus iterating the exact same idea.
Daniel Bejar (otherwise known in his many disguises as Destroyer) in his axiomatically referential manner hits upon the same point in the song “In Dreams.” However, unlike Bob Dylan or Tom Waits, he doesn’t see much value in directly stating this idea, for him it is only an idea that slowly reveals itself under a repeated chorus only after he first describes a personal polar repulsion and the related movement from “heartbreak to heartlessness.”
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Nancy is many different things to different people, many different identities for some people. She is at least three different people intimately known to me – all dynamic yet frozen in my mind’s wintry time. She seems to long to be none of these and One. She gives and has given endlessly to try and find her communion yet still feels something missing as she examines her memory’s frozen crystals. We all want the best for her because her longing seems too great for one person to bear. In her mind there seems to be only one possible horrible solution left and no guaranty was ever possible. I only want the best for her because the longing seems too great for one person to bear, I only want the best for her because the longing seems too great for anyone to bear,
I apologize for my recent break in regular posts. For the last two weeks I have been providing computer-related support for four concerts in the 2007 Montréal/New Music. So, in between programming, organizing and preparing technical setups for rehearsals, and meeting with guest composers I’ve had little time to work on my own music yet alone update this blog. However, since I successfully finished my last obligation on Tuesday I now have time to catch up some with my writing and posting.
I’ve decided to return by posting a few really great pieces by a couple of fellow Montréal composers and friends Sean Ferguson (who is director of the McGill Digital Composition Studios) and Michel Gonneville. Both of these incredibly difficult pieces were also recorded by my friend Marc Couroux, who recently started a position teaching New Media at York University and – like another renounced piano virtuoso, David Tudor – doesn’t perform piano much anymore.
Anders Hillborg: ”Celestial Mechanics” (1983-85) For 17 solo strings and percussion Performed by the Stockholm Chamber Orchestra conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen Currently out of print
*bonus* ”Clang and Fury” (1985-89) For orchestra Performed by the Swedish Radio Orchestra conducted by Esa=Pekka Salonen Currently out of print
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One of the other highlights of last year’s MusiMars festival was on the second half of the concert that also featured Bent Sørensen’s “Shadowland” – a performance of Anders Hillborg’s “Celestial Mechanics.” This work, which was chosen for the UNESCO Composer’s Rostrum in 1992, requires every that every string on 17 different string instruments be tuned differently (all within a half tone from where they would be normally tuned). During the course of the piece the string players mostly play open strings and harmonics to create a disturbingly volatile sonic environment.
With late February/early March soon approaching, so grows the anticipation for the annual Montréal contemporary music festival. This year the mammoth 13 day third edition of Montréal/Nouvelles Musiques promises to offer some particularly exciting music events.
In my opinion Denys Bouliane leading the McGill Contemporary Music Ensemble in “Shadowlands” and the SMCQ’s performance of “Birds and Bells” were some of the highlights from last year’s MusiMars festival (and the Montréal contemporary music concert season in general). “Shadowland” is a quiet enigmatic work which gradually reveals different perspectives upon itself as the four movements unfold. “Birds and Bells” almost resembles an anti-trombone concerto where the soloist plays much delicately and higher than one would imagine a trombonist capable of while navigating in and out of an ensemble that slowly evolves through a brittle windy and almost rural landscape.
Although I haven’t heard “Funeral Procession” in concert I’m including here it as a bonus track because it is possibly my favorite Sørensen piece.
This last week the Conservetoire de Montreal has held a festival on the music of Luigi Nono titled: Le Maître du Son et du Silence. Although I’ve been far too busy completing “Inner Music” to attend many events I have seen a concert of his chamber music and another concert of his music for large ensembles.
I’m always approach a loss of words when I attempt to describe Luigi Nono’s music. The first time I posted Nono it was in the guise of a post on the esthetics found in Andrei Tarkovsky’s cinema and in my second post of Nono I just wrote some jumbled phrases that resembled nonsense. The most that I can get from Nono’s music (particularly the later works which I prefer) is his acute awareness of sonic and psychological phenomenology.
I suppose it is because of my difficulty that I’m fascinated by how many people have written about Luigi Nono’s music. Although I’m sure that his early serial procedures, frequent use of text, and far leftist position provide a large body examinable material I think there is something more integral to his esthetic that demands attention, examination, and scrutiny. The two concerts I’ve seen this week demonstrate in more ways that I could have imagined that Nono’s music that is a music best heard live and, possibly more importantly, amongst others engaged in the same active auditory attention, examination, and even some scrutiny.
In lieu of the best Montreal contemporary music concerts of the year list that I wrote last year I want to more carefully focus on a few remarkable composers, pieces, or performances that I heard live in the last year. One concert I went to that fits into all three categories of these categories was an intimate uninterrupted performance of Morton Feldman’s four and a half hour “For Philip Guston” by Claire Marchand, Brigitte Poulin, and D’Arcy Philip Gray.
By just including the last thirty minutes of this elegiac masterpiece I almost feel putting the carriage before horse, especially since this section works much better if you arrive it after listening to the rest of the work in a quiet and meditative state. However if you either take the time to really enjoy this fragment or this fragment compells you to seek out and listen to all of “For Philip Guston” my work is done.
Jacob David Sudol: ”Resonances” (2004-2006) For metallic percussion and interactive hexaphonic electronics
Performed by Fernando Rocha
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Although I feel a little silly posting one of my own compositions to my mp3 blog since I previously posted ”Time Fixtures” and ”Black Stream” and I really like this piece, I see no reason not to.
Last week I recorded my good friend Fernando Rocha playing the newest version of “Resonances” (the second revision) in the McGill Digital Composition Studios. Although this mixed version is not yet complete (I’m yet to add the subtle live electronics to the interactively cued and mixed audio files) and it is only a stereo version of a piece that sounds much better in six speakers (for example there is no way a stereo version can replicate how all the gongs and one other really loud soundfile sound when they sound at an equal amplitude in all six speakers), I’m willing to consider this mix and version of the piece valid and simply excited to post it here.
Before I include my programme notes I thought I just want to briefly mention one other personal but unrelated item – I just found out my masters’ thesis was approved today.
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Would that the sound of the bell might go beyond our earth, And be heard even by all in the darkness outside the cakravala; Would that, their organ of hearing become pure, beings might attain perfect infusion of the senses, So that every one of them might come finally to the realization of supreme enlightenment.
-bell gatha enchanted after reading the Samantamukha-Parivarta
“Resonances” is entirely based upon the physical phenomena of resonance. In this work, metallic percussion is emphasized. This compositional interest stems from the Zen/Buddhist philosophy that a bell’s ringing, or resonance, represents the fabric of eternity. For this work the ringing of the bell has been expanded to include the resonance of metallic percussion instruments (bells pitched and unpitched), the spatial environment of the performance, and the psychological resonance of musical ideas.
The work was written from November 2004 through December 2004 and the electronics were constructed from December 2004 through March 2005, during winter. It was revised in August 2005 and October 2005. The work is dedicated to Fernando Rocha who premiered original version in March 2005 and the revised version in October 2005.
As typically happens at the end of each academic term, I’ve been ridiculously busy as of late. However, in the last few weeks I’ve gone to a few concerts. Among these concerts there was one piece that really stood out, the piece I’m featuring in the post.
Since studying with Ligeti in the mid-1980’s Korean composer Unsuk Chin has gone on to win almost every major International composition award include the prestigious Gaudemus prize and the Grawemeyer Award. The latter award has also been given to a number of my favorite lesser-known composers such as Chinary Ung and George Tsontakis.
Although I usually hate to do this in lieu of my standard comments on the work I’m just going to include a portion of the composer’s own notes and my hope that you enjoy this devilishly fantastic and dark work as much as I do.
* * * Akrostichon-Wortspiel consists of seven scenes from the fairytales The Endless Story by Michael Ende and Alice through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. The selected texts have been worked upon in different ways: sometimes the consonants and vowels have been randomly joined together, other times the words have been read backwards so that the symbolic meaning alone remains.
Each of the seven pieces is constructed around a controlling pitch centre but in their means of expression they are fully differentiated from one another. Seven different situations of emotional states, as described in the fairytales, ranging from the bright to the grotesque are brought to expression.
The tunings of some of the ensemble instruments are adapted from one quarter to one sixth of a tone to achieve a fine microtonality. The solo soprano fluctuates between these two tuning systems, depending upon which she perceives at any time.
Following what is starting to become running series of quiet introspective posts, I’ve decided to post another dark introspective work.
“Qualia sui” is the first in Denys Bouliane’s new trilogy of chamber works (the second being “Rumore sui” (2002-03) for piano trio and the final being “Tremore sui” for violin and piano (2004-)). The thematic linking in these works derives itself from the Latin word “sui” which means “of oneself” and, over the course of the trilogy, follows a progression towards a deeper level of introspective probing. Denys has also remarked that writing each of these pieces has been progressively harder; so much so that, as of last Winter, he still hadn’t completed “Tremore sui.”
The introversion in these works stands in strong contrast to the majority of Denys’s catalogue, which tends towards overt extroversion. In my opinion, it is possibly this distinction that also makes the two completed “sui” chamber works some of Denys Bouliane’s strongest and most enduring works.
I’ve never really understood Postmodernism and, although I’ve spent some time researching and learning on the subject, I don’t really care to. It may be that living in Montréal (supposedly one of the most Postmodern cities) that the little bit of a punk in me feels the need to rebel and express my own independent identity. On the other hand, I simply cannot agree with how I understand that Postmodernism dismisses grand theories and ideologies to favor of viewing one solely as a culmination of external influences. Although I am by nature skeptical, I believe that art and expression speak to and come from something far greater and more objective and universal than that which Postmodern proposes.
I’ve often found that I agree far more with Modernist philosophies; however, I obviously cannot agree with the “Zero Hour” European Post-WWII ideology that produced some of Boulez’s, Stockhausen’s, and others’ failed experiments. For me there is simply something exciting and effervescent in an artwork that seeks to create an eternally new object. Of course – as Postmodernism claims – art is bound to one’s own influences, but to primarily focus on this or deny art’s fundamental power try and find the means to supersede these mundane concerns seems, to me, a grave error.
To finally come around to the featured composer and mp3 of this entry, although this may be a slightly flawed view, I’ve always seen Luciano Berio as the first and most important Postmodern composer. Despite this, or possibly in spite of this, I’ve always wanted to love Berio’s music. For example, I’ve tried so hard to really appreciate and enjoy “Circles,” “Coro,” “Oh King,” “Recital for Cathy,” the Chemins and Corale, “Points on a Curve to Find,” “A Ronne,” the Sequenzas but – after dozens of listens – I find that Sequenza 21 is the only one that I regularly go back to. Currently, besides “Folk Songs” (which I have studied intensely and always love to listen to) the only pieces of Berio that I still like (albeit, mostly on a Platonic level) are “Sinfonia” (only for the ground-breaking “sampling” in the third movement), “Thema (Ommagio for Joyce)” (particularly for the Bloo-bloo-bloo-bloom-bloom-oom-oom-ooming-ing-ing and how the words finally drown in sound), and the ever-disturbing “Visage.”
The Montréal composer Justin Mariner brought up a good argument once about Berio –the reason his music may seem to “remain new” (or have aged that well) is possibly because he has had so many imitators and – while his music may have sounded revolutionary at one time – the ever-expanding line (and this is my mildly naïve addition to the argument) of "Postmodern composers" like Osvaldo Golijov, Louis Andriessen, Gorecki, John Adams, and even John Zorn have only weakened Berio’s initial impact.
Despite this, I continually turn back to “Visage.” Although this work seems to take a Postmodernism approach by seeming to focus on the language’s historical development, there is some almost primordial in the drama and emotions that the work conjures up. Truthfully I’ve only listened to “Visage” twice, but each listening is firmly etched in my memory. I’m not much an expert in criticism, but if that doesn’t speak of a work’s power I don’t know what does.
Four summers ago I wrote a poem about a brief dream fragment. Although I’m hardly a poet it began with a few lines that I still love: “This morning I dreamt that Megan –/skinny-legged, tender, fragilely falling –/came up questioning time enigmas.” Since writing that, I’ve often thought of life in terms of this image where we are each fragilely falling at an intangibly slow pace.
In the last four years I have tried to capture this illusion in music. In my pursuit, I’ve encountered and been reminded of the ease visual artists can have in depicting illusions that contradict our visual perception. For example, I’ve been drawn to the works of Bridget Riley (see above) and other op artists like Victor Vasarely and Québecois painter Guido Molinari. (In contrast, in the last few years I’ve begun to find M. C. Escher’s art slightly hollow and inexpressive.) In musical auditory illusions, I seek something abstract, emotive, and fragilely intangible. The compositions I’ve chosen for this entry (and the next few this little series) are works that I feel explore not just auditory illusions but some of the key underlying phenomenological and emotive contradictions of our existence.
I consider “Le Mort de l’Ange,” the first song from Grisey’s "Quatre Chants pour Franchir le Seuil," one of the most consistently beautiful and horrifying pieces of music I’ve ever heard. After a brief prelude, where a percussionist rub a brush on a bass drum and three musicians blow into their instruments, the work begins with one of the best musical depictions of “fragilely falling” that I’ve found. This highly deterministic music, which features a three-voice polyrhythmic canon between three of the ensemble’s four groups, is at once clearly directional and eerily tranquil. As the voice and remaining instruments enter the music slowly becomes more indeterminate, expressive, and shockingly frightening.
“Treppenmusik” (Stairway music) refers to the piece Wagner wrote for his wife Cosima and the paradoxical staircases found in the famous works by M. C. Escher. To achieve this illusion John Rea uses, amongst other things, a quadraphonic tape delay system (poorly represented in this recording) and an acoustic adaptation of the famous Shepard Tone auditory illusion where one is unable to tell where a scale or figure stops or begins rising. To explore “Treppenmusik” further, I recommend a fantastic analysis (in French) that Michel Gonneville wrote for Circuit that can be found for free here.
…next time: Falling Fragilely… (the music of Bent Sørensen)
Denys Bouliane is another one of the better living Canadian composers. Although his music is not widely known in the U.S.A. he is highly regarded in Canada and, even more so, in Germany (where he spends some of his time in Cologne). Denys currently teaches composition and directs the Contemporary Music Ensemble (C.M.E.) at McGill. A wonderfully gracious man, his sponsored C.M.E. after-concert parties are almost legendary amongst McGill contemporary music performers and composers.
Since coming to McGill, I’ve had the pleasure of performing electronics and sound diffusion with Denys in concerts with the C.M.E., the Caput Ensemble, and Court-Circuit. He also magnificently conducted the world premiere of my extraordinarily difficult work for 11 players and live electronics – ”Time Fixtures”.
Denys writes incredibly imaginative music that has been dubbed a sort “musical magical realism.” In the early 80’s, he studied with the infamously difficult György Ligeti who later described Denys, along with Benedict Mason, as one of his two favorite students. It was during this time in Cologne that Denys developed a voice that depends upon a personalized collections of modes that, to use his description, “alludes but never quotes.” Interestingly enough, a number of Ligeti’s works from that same period (particularly the piano etude “Fanfares” and parts of the Horn Trio) sound remarkably similar in style to Denys.
“Comme un Silène Entr-ouvert” (“Like Silenus Opening”) is, in my opinion, one of Denys’ strangest and most imaginative works. The composition is based upon the Greek myth of the satyr Silenus and follows a path from the extraverted to the introverted. Compositionally the ensemble is mostly broken into two trios – one high (piccolo, oboe, and harp) and one low (bass clarinet, trombone, and contrabass) while, in contrast, the tape – which is made of pitch-shift recordings from the ensemble – and the piano represent the bridge between these different trios and worlds.
John Rea is one of the better living Canadian composers and also one of the more enigmatic. Since he has been my mentor for the last few years, most of our meetings have more resembled philosophical discussions revolving around esthetics and doubt rather than more composition lessons.
For this entry, I’m going to forego any biographical descriptions and just refer an article my friend Marc Couroux wrote a number of years ago about John Rea, called ”The Madness of King John.”
“Objets Perdus” was commissioned by the Arditti Quartet and won the Prix Jules-Léger (possibly the highest honour for a new chamber music composition in Canada) in 1992. Absurdly, although it has been performed by other string quartets such as Montréal’s Quatuor Bozzini, it has never been commercially released.
Since John Rea is quite the wordsmith, I’ve also decided to forego any other commentary on this work and let his program note speak of the work’s enigmas on its own.
“’Recognizing a common object consists above all in knowing how to make use of it.’ -Bergson
‘Each object is the mirror of all the others’ -Merleau-Ponty
‘It is in entering the object that one enters into one’s very own skin’ -Matisse
‘I look at what I am losing And do not see what remains. -Molière
‘Music, not being made of objects nor referring to objects, is intangible and ineffable; it can only be…inhaled by the spirit: the rest is silence.’ -Jacques Barzun
Objets perdus (lost objects), dispersed among twelve progressively expanding movements (the first being very short in duration), evolve over time as musical materials disappear along the way; one may certainly consider what one is losing, but one should also listen for what remains.”
Vivier’s last work “Crois-tu en l’immortalité de l’âme?” (“Do you believe in the immortality of the soul?”) aside, I consider “Wo Bist Du Licht!” (“Light, Where Are You!”) to be Vivier’s most disturbing work.
A few months ago a friend of mine made a good argument against this piece by saying that, unlike some of Claude Vivier’s other masterpieces like “Lonely Child,” “Wo Bist Du Licht!” lacks the clear personal expression that makes Vivier’s music so profound. I considered this argument valid, until a few days ago when I listened to “Wo Bist Du Licht!” again. It sent chills up my arms, back, neck, and head and frankly left me in a stupor for quite a while. As a result, I now think that what makes “Wo Bist Du Licht!” so achingly beautiful is that it’s not directly personal.
When contemplating aesthetics I often return to the dialogue in James Joyce’s “Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man” where Stephen Dedalus argues that beauty in art requires pity ‘which arrests the mind in the presence of whatsoever is grave and constant in human sufferings and unites it with the human sufferer’ and terror ‘which arrest the mind in the presence of whatsoever is grave and constant...and unites it with the secret cause.’ Although, I often think that beauty also requires direct personal expression, the seemingly objective perspective in which Claude Vivier places confused fragmented nonsense against the found text in “Wo Bist Du Licht!” invokes an almost universal personal sense of terror and pity that imbues the work with a frighteningly beautiful current that I think one rarely finds in music.
The following commentary on the textual and poetic focus of “Wo Bist Du Licht!” is taken from one by my friend, the Montréal composer, Michel Gonneville and uses large extracts of a quote by Claude Vivier.
“Hölderlin’s text “Der blinde Sänger” is superimposed on three types of texts:
1. ‘An emotional one that is extremely significant for America: Martin Luther King’s last speech and a recording in situ of Robert Kennedy’s assassination.’…
2. ‘Abstract text, with no signification’ (invented language)…
3. ‘Finally, a descriptive text about torture. This text has an enormous emotional power due, in part, to the almost neutral tone [of the two radio speakers]. Hölderlin’s text, “Der blinde Sänger,” holds the key to understanding my composition. An old blind man remembers his past, beautiful picturesque scenery; greenery, clouds, etc. The present is evoked by harsh sound images: thunder, earthquakes. He longs for light, freedom, death perhaps…’”
Although virtually unknown in the United States, Claude Vivier is widely regarded in Canada and most of Europe as the greatest Canadian composer. I was first told about his music and tragic life story by some of my fellow Canadian composer friends soon after arriving to Montréal. One friend initially recommended I listen to his orchestral piece “Orion,” which I loved on the first listening. However, it wasn’t until I found a four compact disc CBC collection and first heard “Lonely Child” that I discovered the strength of Vivier’s personal expression.
I could easily fill this entire entry with Vivier’s biographical details; however, I’ll highlight I what consider significant since one can find a longer biography on the great website for The Canadian Music Centre.
Rather than focus on furthering the musical advances of the European vanguard, Vivier’s greastest compositions focus on his personal obsessions – loneliness, ritual, and death. Claude Vivier was born in Montréal to unknown parents and is quoted as saying that upon learning of his adoption he felt a great freedom because he could now be anybody. When a teenager he attended a seminary school but was expelled for ‘inappropiate behavior.’ After receiving some early recognition in Montréal he went to Europe to study sonology at the Hague and, later on, to study composition with Stockhausen. He later traveled to Asia and spent a significant portion of time in Bali before returning to Montréal for a prolific period in the late 70’s and early 80’s. He later left for Paris on a grant from the Canadian Council for the Arts and was stabbed to death at 34 in his Parisian apartment, supposedly by a male prostitute.
Vivier’s best compositions come from an incredibly fruitful period that started after he returned from Bali in late 70’s and continued until his death in 1983. Particularly notable are his works for voice or voices and various ensemble that he wrote the lyrics for in both fragmented and made-up languages. These deeply emotional works include “Bouchara,” “Trois Airs pour un Opéra Imaginaire,” “Prologue pour un Marco Polo,” “Kopernikus (A Ritual Opera of Death),” “Lonely Child,” and the unfinished work “Crois-tu en l’immortalité de l’âme?” (“Do you believe in the immortality of the soul?”). The latter work abruptly ends with a narrator describing his own murder and, eerily enough, was found on Vivier's desk in the same apartment where he was murdered. Although, many of these later works rely upon spectral techniques such as frequency shifting, the effect never sounds hollow and didactic like in some of his contemporaries’ works. In these later masterpieces, what I mostly hear is the singular longing of Vivier’s inner voice and the horrific suspended creative acceleration before his horrible tragic end.