for fourteen players (1989)
Indiana University New Music Ensemble, David Wiley
Because of their intrinsic nature and the way they are deployed in the composition, the materials out of which Hard Cells is composed are to be perceived as metallic, hard-edged, unyielding building blocks of sound. Rather than allowed to grow, develop and blend into an organic flow, they are contexted by repetition, superimpositioning and juxtapositioning - what might be described as a cut-and-paste approach to fabricating a work. This hard-shell cellular approach to the character and structuring of material is what (I believe) distinguishes Stravinsky from Bartok, Scarlatti from Bach, and rock from jazz. In Hard Cells, the steely nature of the ideas is underlined by a insistent unchanging 16th-note pulse.
Hard Cells divides into three sections. In the opening third of the piece, the cellular ideas are deployed over an unrelenting A pedal-tone. The cello finally breaks loose from this encasement, initiating the second section with a primal rock 5-4-1 progression; in this section the material is free to shift into contrasting tonalities, and even, after a brief reprise of the A pedal, gathers momentum into a celebratory climax. The final section, which grows out of the after-shocks of this climax, functions as a non-sequitur epilog; fastened to a metrically uncommitted stream of tambourine 16th-notes, the remainder of the ensemble independently loops odd-lengthed mechanistic fragments.