Sam Kulik, The Western Enisphere’s trombonist, is the featured player on this track, in which he freely interprets an unmetered melody by Mr. First, who asked Mr. Kulik to incorporate “difference tones” and “beating tones” alongside the drones.
“In this case, one can hear that the trombone interaction with the drones creates a bass difference tone lower than anything actually being played,” Mr. First said. “Beating tones are simply when the two interacting tones are so close together and the subtraction results in a fluttering tremolo, sound because the difference is so small that it’s below the range of perceivable pitch.”
‘Scene 6 (harmonica feat.)’
On this track, Mr. First said, he was making use of the same composer-performer prerogative claimed by artists like Captain Beefheart.
“Beefheart would make his players learn these ridiculously difficult, hyper-controlled musical parts and then he would freely blow on top of it all,” he said. “Here, I am doing that with my harmonica playing. I confess I often take liberties in my music that I would not allow other players to do.”
‘Scene 7 (bass clar. and bass duet)’
This mournful piece is one of the work’s highlights. “There are obvious instruments in this ensemble that I like to use because of their flexibility when it comes to pitch: viola, trombone, upright bass, laptop — even guitar, where one can string bend fairly easily,” Mr. First said. “But bass clarinet is not one of them.”
“Jeff Tobias is in this band because he’s Jeff,” he added. “Not because I wanted a bass clarinetist. I do love the sound of the instrument though. It’s just much more of a control challenge — a much more serious subversion of the instrument’s natural proclivities must take place in order to play what I’m asking for.”
‘Scene 11 (ensemble)’
Mr. First has been developing ideas for The Western Enisphere since the violist Jeanann Dara approached him about working together in the early 2010s. The cohesion of the group is key to its success.
For the recording of “Scene 11,” Mr. First conceived of this ensemble piece as a studio creation. “I wanted it to reflect what one can do through manipulating materials in the mixing process, as opposed to simply documenting a performance,” he said. “I had the players record their parts in three different, very precise polyrhythmic tempos and then improvised a mix that highlighted various combinations of players and tempos.”
‘Section 2 (ensemble)’
After 15 separate “scenes,” the final section of “Consummation” is a composed 45-minute jam. “I always called myself a rock ’n’ roll musician,” he said. “It was kind of my way of establishing where I was coming from. That that was my sensibility — how I weighed and measured creativity, even if the music didn’t sound like it at all. It was a little bit a of a wiseguy thing. But it was also my way of legitimizing my own roots.”
“I don’t know what to call myself at this point,” he added. “I’m not crazy about being thought of as strictly a drone composer, to be honest. I think ‘Consummation’ was a bit of a pushback against that. Or at least an attempt to expand the parameters. You want to call me a drone composer? OK: Here’s a two-part canon structure that can only be called melodic, even if there is a drone going on behind it. I guess, in my own way, I was looking to separate myself from that conceit — that drone music has to mean everything is long, loud and without melody.”