The NEC Young Composers Forum is an open space in which young composers from anywhere in the world are invited to present their work not in the context of a performance, but rather in a presentation or lecture format. Eight young composers have been invited to talk about their music as a way for specialized audiences —composers, performers, and theorists— to learn more about what is currently happening in new music composition not only in Boston, but also around the world. Therefore, this entrepreneurial project is outwardly beneficial: not only does it benefit audiences, but it also helps young composers gain valuable skills, increase awareness about their work, and possibly make important personal connections that will help them advance their careers.

Vanessa Wheeler on Paul Clift's "With My Limbs in the Dark"

In the weeks following the inaugural lectures of the New England Conservatory Young Composers Forum (NEC YCF), it is apt to consider how seemingly familiar concepts, such as feedback, can be new again. Paul Clift's demonstration on November 15th, 2010 to a small audience in Pierce Hall how he -- with the help of a choreographer and several IRCAM engineers -- can exploit electro-acoustic concepts in his multimedia work, With My Limbs in the Dark.
Clift addresses questions of spacialization by fitting a mixed ensemble of acoustic instruments with speakers and microphones. He also outfits a dancer with two small speakers and a microphone on either hand. As a sort of meta-musician, the dancer’s carefully choreographed movements interact in rotation with each instrument, adding rich feedback and other effects to an otherwise conventional instrumental texture. Initially bewildering sonorities begin to solidify with each repeated exchange, constructing a loose, internal form, which perpetually entices the ear.

The piece reaches a bold peak when acoustic and electronic sounds arrive at a satisfying amalgamation of extended, pure, buttery noise. The climax, although dependent on conventional instrumentation, utilizes the complex timbres born from these live electronic interactions, which shape this peak that is simultaneously static yet infinitely variable.
Paul Clift’s highly inventive ensemble yields results that are at times lush and familiar, yet often illusive in execution. His path towards spacial exploration undoubtedly connotes Spectralist interest while also discovering the experience of resonating bodies set in motion -- a sentiment closely akin to that of the New York School of composers. Clift’s careful consideration of these disciplines allow the events within With My Limbs in the Dark to speak through the science -- not in spite of it.


Vanessa Wheeler is a composition major at NEC currently studying with Lyle Davidson and Kati Agócs.

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