Half Notes: Memory Bubbles

Half Notes: Memory Bubbles

Because I am neither a musician nor a tech geek, I was doubly handicapped when I talked with Randall West about his composition Memory Bubbles.

West, co-founder of the Chicago Composers Orchestra, is a musician/composer who writes algorithmically, using computer code to give musical shape to his inspirations. I’ll not say more about how all that works, because I find myself quickly over my head just thinking about it. So let’s start somewhere else.

As part of the Ten x Ten 2020 project, West collaborated with visual artist Azadeh “Azi” Gholizadeh. He called her a perfect partner, and one visit to Azi’s website (www.azadehgholizadeh.com/copy-of-garden) told me why. Her beautiful pieces are comprised of lines and cells that repeat themselves to form wonderful images, like beautiful Iranian tapestries that gradually take shape as each thread is pulled into place.

In the same way, West explained, his music takes shape as he arranges cells (computer code) in certain ways, and then builds a musical tapestry by piecing together the strings that the computer generates.

Despite the huge difference between these two artists’ mediums, as they worked together they came to realize that they were seeking a very similar result. Each started with granular, irreducible units, and then pieced these together into something—pardon the cliché—much bigger than the sum of its parts. From the concrete arises the ephemeral. From knowledge, imagination. As individual units are built on each other, the work eventually reaches critical mass, and an artistic creation emerges.

Like the mystery of the origin of life, so too in an artist’s creation: When is it exactly—the twentieth thread? The twenty-thousandth note?—that a sufficient number of cells come together to form a piece of art?

Memory Bubbles draws our attention specifically to this mystery. Each of the four movements is built on its own cell. Each is slightly longer than the movement preceding it. Each has its own tempo—one slow, one languid, one frenetic, one moderate. In each movement, you will hear its core cell repeated throughout, as the orchestra seeks to stay rooted in that movement’s origin.

Azi Gholizadeh does not have the luxury of 40 musicians and ten to fifteen minutes of live music to make her statement. Hers is an immobile, two-dimensional, ten-inch by ten-inch matte. In that small space she will build an image—cell by cell, layer upon layer—and as that image takes shape, she will seek that conclusive fragment, that final cell that transforms her piece from a cold and mechanical collection of dots to a warm and organic piece of art that is much larger, much deeper than the one hundred square inches that contains it.

These two talented artists promise to demonstrate through their creations the mysterious ability of the human heart to imagine, and to transform lifeless bits into life-giving art.

– Dan Lory

Hear Memory Bubbles at CCO’s Jan 25 concert at Ganz Hall: MORE INFO AND TICKETS

About Half-Notes:

By popular demand, once again we are offering our series called Half-Notes. Half-Notes are reflections by Dan Lory, CCO’s non-expert in residence, on each of the compositions performed in our concert.

Dan Lory calls himself a music lover who is unencumbered by knowledge of music theory. Enjoy Dan’s take on each piece that will be performed at CCO’s January 25 concert. We think these reflections will help all listeners—from music experts to the theory-unencumbered among us—enjoy the concert more fully.