Deus Ex Machina
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There are pieces of 20 th century music that attempt to combine acoustic instruments with electric guitars, almost always at the expense of the identity of one or the other group. My dissertation work, Deus ex Machina, for small chamber orchestra and two electric guitars, seeks to weave these seemingly opposite voices together smoothly and convincingly in a composition that explores the ramifications of the colliding worlds of contemporary classical music and heavy metal through issues of expression and intonation. This piece describes a transformation from human to robot. The guitars are the actors; the acoustic ensemble is the environment. The acoustic instruments execute a gradual de-tuning to alienate their harmonic world while slowly exposing the stability of the guitars, which embark on their own voyage of sonic transformation throughout the work: from acoustic-sounding members of the ensemble to heavily distorted, mechanistic caricatures, devoid of traditional expression. The realization and recording of this composition requires an ensemble of 12 players and two electric guitar stations with amplifiers and matching speakers, each with an array of effects processors. Also necessary are a concert hall and a recording station with an engineer to monitor and edit the session. Deus ex Machina is my latest piece to explore microtonality, but this time I am attempting to loosen some control of resultant harmonies; the de-tuned ensemble becomes random and unpredictable, and the electric guitars emerge with a secure and unwavering tonality.