Notes on Navigation
Composition notes for my piece Navigation, written for my sextet featuring Jim Hobbs (alto saxophone), Bill Lowe (bass trombone, tuba), Mary Halvorson (guitar), Ken Filiano (bass), and Tomas Fujiwara (drums), with special guest Chad Taylor (drums, vibraphone):
The purpose of Navigation is to maximize the freedom, choice, and agency of the performing musicians while maintaining a strong compositional structure. It is broken into six sections: ISH, WUK, ZADE, TRIST, MANCH, and KID. Each section has two pieces that may lead into it, and two pieces that lead out of it. Where to go next is the real-time decision of the members of the ensemble. Each section has two musicians who can activate the cue to begin, each musician has two sections they are primarily responsible for cueing (with a different partner in each section).
Therefore, while the materials within each section are pre-composed, the overall order is potentially different each performance. It is not necessary for all six sections to be played. Sections may be revisited during the course of the performance (multiple times if desired). The ensemble may choose to remain in one section for an entire performance, or play three, or visit fifteen with repetitions, those are all decisions for the moment.
While some elements within each section are fixed (cues, orchestrations, melodic materials, etc), the means and chronological order of improvisational explorations are open. The balance and groupings (solos, duos, trios, etc) are all mutable. A section might be interpreted with full ensemble, or as a bass and guitar duo, or a horn choir, or solo. Musicians are encouraged to take their time (and take risks) in exploring each section, while simultaneously encouraged to be confident (yet patient) in cueing movement on to the next section.
Overall duration is open; while the composition is designed to fill a standard performance period of 45 to 70 minutes, a satisfactory performance could be 20 minutes or three hours.
Do not fear silence.
Do not fear chaos.
(Ideally, the piece should have several moments of each.)
Use composed materials creatively; improvise in a compositional manner.