alternate between attention and ease - Score - James Saunders.pdf (285.01 kB)

alternate between attention and ease_score

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Version 2 2021-03-10, 15:38
Version 1 2017-06-25, 13:02
posted on 2021-03-10, 15:38 authored by James SaundersJames Saunders
alternate between attention and ease explores cognitive load and the way we remember associations between pairs of unrelated elements. Cognitive load is the amount of mental effort needed to remember things in different situations. An example of it in practice is the children's party game where a tray of objects is displayed before being hidden, and then participants are asked to remember as many of the items as possible. The difficulty of this task is affected by the type and arrangement of the objects.

This piece draws on two previous pieces, like you and like you (2015) and in which one thing depends on another (2016). In like you and like you, three players each have 24 sound producing objects and 24 samples that relate to them in some way (e.g. a cap gun and recording of a cannon). Players copy each other, so when one player rings a bell, the other two players must ring their bell, or play their bell sample. This sets off chains of association. In in which one thing depends on another, two players each have a set of 10 objects and 10 words. They work together to pair each of their own words with each of the other player's objects, learning, teaching and testing each other in a gamelike way.

The new orchestra piece takes elements of these two pieces and scales them up for the larger ensemble. There are two cueing players who each have a set of 24 words and samples that are used to instruct the orchestra. Each cue is linked to a major or minor triad. The cueing players deliver their cues in a playful way, developing sequences and associations (for example between gun - dog - whistle). The orchestra must play the relevant pitches as quickly as possible on hearing each cue, so the resultant texture is a map of the speed of response of the individual players. The cueing players play with this situation, making it harder or simpler for the orchestra to respond correctly. The conductor also has a set of cues that initiate noise drone samples and static noise sounds from the orchestra. The piece alternates between these two cueing systems.

This item contains the score for alternate between attention and ease.


Commissioned by BBC Radio 3 and first performed on 7 May 2017 at Tectonics Music Festival by BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Parkinson Saunders, conducted by Ilan Volkov.


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