Happy new year! Figured we continue with the series on our compositions.
Ribs is another of our 13 compositions presented in the 90-minute production SCRAP•ARTS•MUSIC. We appreciate the opportunity to give you a little more insight into the inner workings of our invented instruments and Gregory Kozak’s unique approaches to composing for and with them.
Ribs was composed by Gregory while in residency at the Banff Centre in the Canadian Rockies. The composition features a collection of carefully selected and honed found metal objects, arranged on specially-made mobile tables that naturally amplify the exotic musical sounds the quintet is able to generate.
While sorting through industrial dumpsters in greater Vancouver in 2000, Gregory found dozens of curved stainless steel bars of various lengths and steel hose couplings of various diameters. He carted them back to his studio and these sat collecting dust for some months. Gregory knew they had tremendous musical potential, so when our company went to the Banff Centre in 2001 for a 3-month professional music residency, the still unsorted metal objects were also brought along.
While in residency, Gregory was able to use one of the Banff Centre’s grand pianos to identify and painstakingly chart out the various pitches contained within each of the metallic bars, hose couplings, plates and dishes. He transposed this information into a giant graph which led to the selection of unusually-shaped metal elements that shared common pitches. With this unique scale thus selected Gregory then began to experiment with some of his invented instruments and eventually the composition emerged. Originally envisioned to be optionally performed with a traditional string quartet, one of the first performances of the composition featured Sweden’s Indra String Quartet. We have since performed this piece as a quintet in 14 different countries, in four different continents!
Original Gregory Kozak-invented instruments include: Sigh-chordions – aerophonic instruments made from plumbing fixtures & individual accordion reeds which create chords & single notes; The Ribs – curved stainless steel bars of various lengths; Wooden Table Box Resonators – hollow, rolling tables that act as amplifiers; and a variety of carefully selected; thick Alumo-Plates suspended on foam; and organized Found Metal Objects including steel hose couplings and a brass plate honed by the composer to bring out the desired pitches.
Fun Fact: We use over 145 instruments in our 90-minute concerts, and almost a quarter of these are used in Ribs!
Ribs demonstrates Kozak’s compositional interest and the group’s performance style: complex layering and sequencing of time signatures (2/4, 3/4, 4/4, 5/4) and gestures that propel this Balinese-inspired piece forward. Intricate hocketing runs throughout, enabling each piece of metal to be heard, yet because of the advanced performance techniques of the ensemble and due to the ways the metal objects are suspended, a pleasant tonal blending of the invented instruments evolves.
The choreography of Ribs is relatively static (unlike some of our more energetic pieces) and the instruments are positioned in the center downstage area.
Ribs has a dense and complex musical fabric with five variations organized according to instrument groupings.
Not enough time to re-listen to the whole composition? Try these two excerpts:
1:38 – 2:41 Demonstrates the five individual themes plus you can see the instruments
3:55 – 4:50 Demonstrates one of the variations on the theme
Gregory Kozak is currently composing a new work based on Ribs for full symphony orchestra, to be presented in 2015.
Feel free to leave us comments. We read them all.