At their best, graphic compositions are both beautiful and provocative. Beautiful in that they can, when artfully done, stand as independent works of visual art. Provocative, because they ask the performer to act as a kind of co-composer—they provoke him or her to make musical choices that, in the absence of specific instructions encoded in standard notation, somehow will translate the markings on the page into concrete gestures producing real sound. Mutatis mutandis the same observation can be made of verbal scores, many of which approach poetry in their use of condensed, evocative language. Both types of scores provoke and inspire by creating an atmosphere in the way that an abstract painting or a poem might create an atmosphere: suggestively, through connotation rather than denotation.
Diverse as they are, all of the compositions in this collection have one thing in common. All of them, by leaving crucial musical and structural parameters undefined, are as much situations or events as they are works–situations to which the performer must respond with an ongoing series of decisions based on significantly discretionary, interpretive judgments. Consequently, the marks on the page (and in one case, the wall) may be thought of as enabling constraints that, in their refusal to fully prescribe a course of action, invite the engaged choices that will realize them as specific sounds and gestures.
In the works performed here, a significant aspect of the meaning inheres in the concrete procedural or technical choices through which the performer, in concert with the initial conditions set out by the score, completes the work. Before performance the work is in a state of incompletion; the performer acts in completion of the work. Hence the title of this collection.
I think of these performances as collaborations in which each of us—the composer, who creates a set of initial conditions or parameters expressed as more or less open variables, and I, who must interpret the implications of those conditions and realize them with concrete values—has an essential part to play, even if at a distance of space or, as in the case of Root Music, of time.
My thanks go to the composers represented here, some of whom composed works for me and others who encouraged me in my interpretations of previously composed work.
Daniel Barbiero, Silver Spring MD, September 2020