Lois V Vierk
The title of this piece refers to the way in which astronomers and physicists measure movement and distances of distant celestial bodies. Briefly, characteristic lines and patterns made by different elements found in the star, etc., as observed through a spectrometer, are shifted in one direction or the other, towards the red or towards the blue end of the spectrum, depending on whether the body is moving away from us or towards us. This shift is called the "red shift".
When I wrote this work, I had the feeling of something of great mass and motion, far away, like a comet. It first seemed to move slowly, then gradually began accelerating toward us, faster, and faster, until finally at great speed I felt it sweeping down upon us, through us, and back out into the heavens.
During the 1980s and into the '90s I worked on developing principles of "Exponential Structure", in which elements such as time, harmonic motion, rhythmic and timbral development, sound density, etc. are controlled mathematically by exponential factors. These are not meant to be abstract constructs, but formal ideas based on the emotional thrust of the sounds and of the piece as a whole. The harmonic motion (movement from one pitch center to another), with its ever-decreasing time segments, is the clearest expression of Exponential Structure in this work.
The original 1989 version of Red Shift (cello, electric guitar, percussion, synthesizer) was commissioned by the Experimental Intermedia Foundation with support from the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust and is available on CD from Tzadik Records. In 1991 the piece was reorchestrated as Red Shift 4 for A Cloud Nine Consort and again for Ensemble Modern.
This recording does not totally match the score. The recording is of a 1991 orchestration of this piece for the New York ensemble A Cloud Nine Consort, without cello. Performers are:
Gary Trosclair, trumpet/synthesizer
Mark Stewart, electric guitar
Alan Moverman, synthesizer/piano
Tigger Benford, percussion
New World Records NWCR646 "Bang On A Can Live, Vol. 2, Emergency Music"