Zeynep Toraman
composition | media arts | theory
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traces(i);  music and essay in three parts [clarinet, double bass, trumpet and electronics] | 2022 
Written for and Premiered by  Madison Greenstone, Kathryn Schulmeister and Alexandria Smith in Cambridge, MA

Keats, in his copy of Paradise Lost:
“a sort of Delphic Abstraction, a beautiful thing made more beautiful
by being reflected and put in a mist.” (Anne Carson, The Beauty of the Husband, 103)

The face is a surface which can present both as a “reflective surface” and as the organ of “intensive micro-movements,” and these are the two poles of its existence. (Jalal Toufic, What was I thinking? 26) The music’s temporal-textural fabric here is meant to create such a structure, one that also embodies these two poles. Toufic uses this duality to conclude that “the affect as expressed by a face is always composite,” and the piece (which was conceived as a face) cannot escape the duality of its expression, as pure affect can only be expressed by “those who can tolerate being faceless.” (Toufic, 226)

But here I wanted to take this image one step further, by imagining the music’s half-transparent half-reflective surface also as a threshold. A hospitable one, “one that does not intimidate us by its majesty,” (Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, 120) but also one that does not let us pass through itself (and move into an altered realm beyond it). It is a surface-threshold hybrid structure. A reflective surface that also bears the promise of depth. And an organ only capable of micro-movements both accentuating this depth, but when activated rendering the surface opaque.

But I did not want to seal all ways out (or rather in,) so I miniaturized. And when things are allowed to become condensed and enriched in the world of the miniature, even a tiny creak in the wall can turn into a route for escape. (Bachelard, 169)

With many thanks to Madison, Alexandria and Kathryn.