Dark Blue Circumstance
Paul Dresher (1982-87) for electric guitar and live tape processing
Dark Blue Circumstance was first performed in the Fall of 1982 and was premiered at the New Performance Gallery in San Francisco on Dec. 10, 1982.
I subsequently performed the work regularly as part of my solo performance program many dozens of times after its premier through 1987, when work with my music theater ensemble became the primary focus of my performances. During that time it continually evolved, as is typical of works I compose for myself, and arrived at its final form in this recording, made in early 1987. The work is performed on an elaborate tape loop system which is an instrument which allows live multi-track recording, mixing, processing and immediate playback of any sounds produced by the performer(s). It was designed and built by Paul Tydelski and me in 1979 and consists of a 4 channel tape machine with 3 playback heads located at various points in the path of a single loop, the duration of which is variable by controlling the tape speed. Record/play functions and the mixing and routing of all sounds are controlled by the performer with an array of foot pedals and switches, thus leaving the performer's hands free to play their instrument without interruption. This instrument was my principal performing tool for most of the 1980's and was integral to many compositions, both for me as a soloist as well as for ensemble music and theater performances and purely tape compositions.
At this point, I am no longer utilizing this system for the creation of new works for live performance. My reasons for this are that I feel I have sufficiently explored the musical material which results in such a directly repetitive technology and to some extent, digital sampling has replaced some of the functions of the tape system. However, I still use this old technology when sketching the layering of ideas, particularly those that arise from performing with non-MIDI instruments as nothing in today's technology has replaced the ease and speed with which one can build up complex layers of sound as a soloist.
The work arose while also composing the score for the music theater collaboration, are are, by the George Coates Performance Works of which I was a member at the time. As a result, for a while it existed in two forms, one for solo guitar only and the second (at a substantially slower tempo) in its theatrical version as the overture and first scene of are are, for electric guitar and two tenors, John Duykers and Rinde Eckert. In fact, the alternating slow melodic lines in the first half of the work were originally conceived as two tenor parts.