Dick and Don

This piece was created on a computer, during a period extending from January through August of 2004. It is the fourth piece which I have created using a compositional technique which consists of constructing music out of fragments of preexisting material. Dick and Don was featured in the 2006 Spark Festival of electronic art at the University of Minnesota, along with custom choreography created specifically for that event. 

This piece uses as it’s source material, voice recordings of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. All of the sound in the piece is created directly from this source material. The Cheney material was derived from two National Press Club speeches, and the Rumsfeld material came from two press conferences and part of the congressional hearings on Iraqi prisoner abuse. The two press conferences were conducted during the war in Iraq. The first one took place just at the fall of Baghdad and the other shortly thereafter.  

I recorded all of this material into a computer, and then went through it, carefully extracting fragments, which I thought could be musically useful for the piece I wanted to create. This process of harvesting musically useful fragments was quite time consuming, and was actually compositionally significant. A great many aesthetic and editorial decisions were made during this phase of the compositional process. For example, I would often decide to sample a particular fragment because I knew it would work in an interesting way with another fragment I had already sampled earlier. As I got further and further into this harvesting process, I started to find myself looking for more and more specific types of things that I knew would work well with my growing body of fragments. Sometimes I would be surprised by something I came across, and this would send me off in whole new directions of other new material to search for. But in the end, this pallet of fragments had built into it, a significant amount of aesthetic coherence, which served as a musically useful limiting factor. This helped to provide the final piece with a kind of unity, before the actual musical construction even began. 

Once the fragment harvesting was complete, I could start building the piece. This was done on a Macintosh computer using a software program called Digital Performer. In this environment, I was able to place, edit, combine, distort, multiply, signal process, stretch, shrink, slice, dice and generally manipulate the fragments to form my composition. 

Read more about my fragment-based compositional process here.

Funding for this project has been provided in part by grants from the McKnight Foundation and
the American Composer Forum