Soundings in Pure Duration n.4 (2012) by James Dashow
for viola and octophonic electronic sounds
West Coast premiere

Soundings in Pure Duration n.4 is my first foray into the world of octophonic electronic sounds, rather than my usual hexaphonic. The 8 channel configuration offers greater opportunities for developing spatialization structures, in particular a more elaborate exploration of my dual conception of movement IN space together with movement OF space. Following the trajectories of the spatial motion is very much like concentrating on the multiple voices in a contrapuntal work; but it is my sense that there is far greater involvement by virtue of the fact that the musical linearity is actually occurring physically around the listener, it is no longer a static experience (the musical lines all coming from the same point in space).

It was immensely satisfying to compose for the viola: its timbral qualities vary from a more intense variation on the violin sound in the upper register to the absolutely unique quality in its lowest register. As such, designing electronic sounds for the viola was a fascinating challenge. And having worked on recent pieces (Soundings n. 2a for percussive sounds, Soundings n.3 for guitar) where the articulation of the principal instruments are made up of hits, points and plucks, it was both a relief and a pleasure to be able to compose for an instrument that can sustain a note for an arbitrary length of time and even produce a continuous crescendo or diminuendo.

The title of this series of pieces, Soundings in Pure Duration, comes from a phrase of Henri Bergson in one of his essays on Time; the word in French for "Soundings" means only (something like) "inquiries" or "plumbing the depths", which it shares with English. French lacks the play on the word Soundings that we have in English (you might say it loses something in the original), and so it seems to me a perfect description of my approach to electronic music.

— J. D.    

[from program for March 19, 2018 concert]