Hybridity in music – for Cello.

This was a surprise, at the least:

Solo Cello String Ensemble (4-4-4-3-2) c. 25 minutes



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“Clifford uses the word to describe ‘a discourse that is travelling or hybridising in new global conditions’ and he stresses ‘travel trajectories’ and ‘flow’ (Clifford 1994, pp. 304 /6). Worrying that assertions of identity and difference are celebrated too quickly as resistance, in either the nostalgic form of ‘traditional survivals’ or mixed in a ‘new world of hybrid forms’ (Clifford 2000, p. 103), he sets up an opposition (tradition/hybrid) that will become central to our critique of the terms” (Hutnyk, 2005: 80).


Tradition – Hybrid – Survival is a work for solo cello and string ensemble. The requirements for the ensemble are 4-4-4-3-2 divided into the following groups:

Local: 1st Vln I 2nd Vln I 1st Vln II 2nd Vln II 1st Vla 2nd Vla Vc DB Diaspora: Vln I Vln II Vla Vc DB

Outsider: Vln I Vln II Vc

See fig.1 for a representation of how the groups should be arranged on stage.

Note that there should be a physical gap between the local and diaspora groups, and diaspora players should be either seated on a raised platform or standing. Outsider players should be offstage and unseen by the audience and musicians. The solo cello is intentionally partially concealed by the conductor. Groups and Their Meanings Each of the groups represents a certain kind of identity group and therefore uses musical material in a particular way. The local group represents identities that share a locality: persons of shared cultural heritage who are co-present, and whose actions are directed into greater alignment through the sharing of laws, practices, codes and customs. The diaspora group represents people of shared cultural heritage who are separated in space and time. They exchange material both amongst themselves and with the local group, but are variously distanced from these interactions, leading to a sense of fracturing and alienation.

The diaspora and local groups relate to each other in important ways. At many points during the piece (for e.g. letters R, S, V, W & Y) the local and diaspora groups play a similar or identical boxed phrase with distinct starting points. That is, all members choose their own tempo but the local group begin together at the conductor’s downbeat while the diaspora group start the phrase when they choose. This results in a blurred aural landscape in which all members explore the same basic idea but with some members more united in this process than others. Moreover, at other moments such as letter T, both groups come together and play in a united, frantic manner.

The outsider group stands apart from both the local and diaspora, and operates completely independently. They are unseen, unconducted and virtually unknown to the wider group since they do not join the ensemble prior to the final rehearsal. This is so that the music played by the outsider group comes as a surprise to the rest of the ensemble, who should not otherwise be informed of the nature of what this group will play. The outsider group represent vague and distant ‘others’; individuals who drop in from nowhere and then disappear again just as quickly. They do not interact with the complexities of diaspora/local relations since their music never relates to anyone else. Moreover, the outsider group parts are partially redacted so that they receive only a small amount of information on the activities of other members of the ensemble.

From AA, the outsider group begin playing a repeated figure at their own slow tempo. Their material is relatively simple – cycling through a series of chords – but since the rhythmic content is uneven and the tempo unknown, it should be practically difficult for the local and diaspora groups to work out when each chord will change. This is intentional and important, since at letter FF the local and diaspora groups are charged with attempting to align their material with these chords. This should be a difficult process that forces the ensemble to listen carefully to this group, momentarily providing the outsider group with the entire focus of the ensemble and a great deal of power as result. For these reasons, it is imperative that the local and diaspora groups do not see the notated outsider parts at any point. Due to the complexity of achieving such an alignment, it is recommended that the only rehearsal at which the outsider group are present should be focused on this section of the piece.

The solo cello charts a course between these three ensemble groups, weaving in and out of the different material they present; subverting, challenging, echoing or extending it. The solo cello remains most distinct from the outsider material, which they do not draw on explicitly until the final bars of the piece. At letter II the soloist detunes their C string to a B while playing, aligning with the tonal centre of the outsider group’s material and thus forming a sense of communion with this group for the first time. The solo cello therefore represents an individual who charts a course between each of these identities, never remaining entirely fixed in any grouping and with the ability to draw on each of these forms of being at particular moments.

For the rest of this confection see: https://escholarship.org/content/qt5c04v6g3/qt5c04v6g3.pdf

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