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constructions & haiku

1. construction 4.1

2. haiku 1

3. construction 4.4.2

4. haiku 2

5. construction 5.1.2

6. haiku 3

7. construction 5.3.2

8. haiku 4

haiku 1

There is a cold stream

upon a green mountainside

from which one can drink

haiku 2

Ethereal mist

dissipates into nothing

as the sun beckons

haiku 3

Evening rains fall

but trees’ leaves cover all things

except for the sound

haiku 4

Birds are curious

bidding a sitter welcome


The concept of this suite for string trio, constructions & haiku, lies at the meeting of two seemingly disparate entities: the natural and the artificial. In both literal and symbolic senses, the constructions represent the artificial, fabricated, inorganic, while the haiku represent the natural, elemental, organic. Both are based on previous creations by the composer. In August of 2020 an album of purely electronic music was recorded, titled constructions & events, which was effectively an upwelling of deep contemplation on climate change. Around that same time, inspired by experiences from a four-day hike on the Appalachian Trail, four haiku were written. 


The original constructions are abstract narratives that serve as a dark day-dream; an imagining of a future dystopian, post-climate change planet Earth. After humankind has violated and destroyed each other and everything else on this planet, what is left is a world which, due to this impact, is devoid of all organic, carbon-based life (including humans) and replaced by inorganic, silica-based artificial constructions. Algorithmic synthesis and spectral processes were combined to create these sounds via live recording and post-recording editing (what the composer refers to in a sound design setting as "sound-sculpting"). 


Translating these pieces of electronic music into the language of a string trio was not merely transcription. Writing patches with MAX/MSP software, further fabricated/technological processes were created in order to set parameters, analyze frequencies, and record in real-time via MIDI. This MIDI data was then imported into Sibelius notation editing software, where it was treated much like any raw material for composing. And so, there is no one-to-one facsimile between the original synthetic constructions and those of the string trio; a further reconstruction of constructions, one might posit. This process was repeated three times for each construction, with the parameters adjusted to fit the playable range for violoncello, viola, and violin. Also, several iterations of the frequency analyses were carried out, hence the multiple-decimal titles (akin to the numbers corresponding to software versions on computer operating systems). An unnatural alchemical and digital ritual.


In stark contrast to these electro-dystopian transmutations, sit the four haiku. To create the music for string trio, a similar process to the constructions was set-up, but purposefully left to a bit of chance, to the organicness and intuitive nature of the poems themselves, and the composer’s own creative process. Numbers were assigned to the letters of the alphabet and to the twelve notes of the Western chromatic scale. Next, chance operations were employed by generating a series of twelve random numbers for the assignment to letters and notes. Just as before, this process was repeated three separate times for each of the three string instruments. One can find this exemplified in the violoncello’s ostinato in Haiku 4: Bb-Ab-D-C-F stand in for B-I-R-D-S, the first word of that poem. 


Through this string trio, it is the composer’s aim to examine these two polarities of the world in which we exist, to delve into the space where they overlap, and to explore their similarities and differences. And through these investigations, to perhaps cause the listener or performer to ask themselves questions about these occurrences, their own place amongst the artificial and natural world, and their impact on the Earth and its future.


Antonio Forte

Winter 2020

Performed by Trio Lunaire and premiered virtually on February 11th, 2021 at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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