Section 2: Nicholas Deyoe- facesplitter
Nicholas Deyoe's facesplitter is a work for solo trombone composed in 2011, and collaboratively revised in 2014 by Matt and Nicholas. The performing musician is asked to integrate the human element of her playing into the piece as part of an irregular mechanical function, finding a way to regulate those human elements into the work's sonic framework. Deyoe describes the piece as 'inorganic and concrete covered,' setting the challenge to create a sonic world that is perceived as an erratic machine rather than a human attempting to disguise his human functioning in regularity.
Deyoe's thoughts on the process he is exploring are succinctly summed up by his program note for the work's recording:
facesplitter is a study in mechanism and degradation. This piece began an obsession for me in music that can highlight the mechanical aspects of playing an instrument while highlighting the parts that are inherently human. The closer we get the a purely mechanical representation of something, the human failures become all the more apparent. facesplitter alternates (and wanders the territory) between machine and person to exhibit the moments when each becomes the other. Rhythmically regular split tone pulsations eventually falter. Vocal multiphonics combine human with machine, suggesting some creation that has come to life, but is broken and dangerous. Bolts loosen and rattle. Human moments of pure and quiet tones are degraded and forced to last too long, revealing imperfections.
This vision creates a series of singular challenges that require thoughtful consideration when applied to the concepts laid out in this manual.
The primary challenge in facesplitter is the immediate production and cessation of split-tones in a wide spectrum of dynamics. facesplitter also challenges the performer by demanding a seamless integration of circular breathing into the work's rhythmic fabric as well as the performer being able to circular breathe 2:1 split-tones. The piece also requires that the performer rapidly and precisely alternate between split-tones and vocal multiphonics of the same interval. The score for facesplitter is included in this section. Because of this, individual measure numbers will be referenced rather than inserting score excerpts into the text.
The challenge of hard starts and stops is present throughout facesplitter in disparate styles and ranges of split-tone attacks that require a considered application of a similar method. The exercise on page 22, that focuses on immediate attacks with rhythmically intense releases, is the dominate method for approaching this challenge. All of the challenges related to this in Deyoe's work can be addressed by applying this exercise in contextually modified ways to individual difficulties.
The first, and most often missed by the author, occurrence of this challenge is at m. 17. The attacks in this section [mm. 17 to 20] present particular challenges because of the speed of reiteration and the volume of attack. The sudden volume shift can easily encourage the performer to overdo the attack and therefore lose embouchure focus and with that, the split-tone. Given that the initial attack at m. 17 is the first 4:3 split-tone of the work, the performer can help her stability by taking back the dynamic shift slightly and allowing the aggressiveness of the split-tone to create an impression of dynamic increase. In general, 4:3 split-tones tend to have a more aggressive, high overtone centered timbre than the low frequency heavy 3:2 split-tone, thus producing a brighter sound.
The other precarious element in this gesture is to not break the split-tone when executing the multiple tonguing at the written tempo. One method to avoid this is to lengthen the first note very slightly to allow the split-tone to center before disturbing it with articulation. Another technique to aid its stability it to keep the tongue low in the mouth when double tonguing. While this is something one should always strive for, an inconsistent airflow can drastically effect the stability of a split-tone. Because of this, a high tongue position increases the potential of instability and increases the probability of errors when articulating so close to the beginning of the tone. By devoting careful focus to the efficiency of tongue position and allowing the split-tone to imperceptibly settle before delivering the initial back stroke while multiple tonguing, one can increase his security in the attack and deviation of this sound.
The next potential pitfall is at m. 28. If one utilizes the above suggestion of allowing the shift in split-tone to create an impression of a loud dynamic, then the performer must compensate for this by adjusting the volume at m. 28. Given the increased tempo and aggressive sound created by the 4:3 split-tone combined with double tonguing, it is easy for the player to not give an impression of a softer, mp dynamic. While seemingly a small challenge, it is actually an incredibly important moment in the work. If the performer fails to create a gradation of split-tone dynamics, facesplitter can lose its structural clarity. If the integration of split-tones into the form and texture are lost, the work can threaten to become a series of extended techniques and noises rather than the carefully thought out work it is. Much like a brass section “taking back” certain dynamics in a Bruckner symphony to maintain interest and impact, the performer must devote careful attention to the dynamic gradations in facesplitter.
Since this is such a pivotal detail, it is recommended that the performer slightly over emphasize the softer dynamic. Careful attention must be paid to finding a healthy middle point between executing the split-tone softly enough to create a change in contour while also still playing it loud enough to present a full image of the sound and create a clear forward momentum to emphasize the tempo shift. One useful method for creating a stable attack at a softer volume while being able to focus on a clear, full sound, is to practice this section with a practice mute. Much like in traditional trombone practice, the application of a practice mute to this phrase can assist in finding the balance point between creating the physical sensation of a soft attack while playing into the resistance of the mute to create of full width of tone. While the work demands many extreme techniques, consistent delivery is created through the same practice methods one would apply to any more traditional work.
A quite precarious appearance of this issue occurs from mm. 51-53. This spot provides an unlikely challenge for a few reasons. Primarily because these are the split-tones in the work most inclined to instability, they are the softest, and they are performed without the resistance benefits [and wiggle room] of a mute. A practical method for approaching a consistent low 3:2 split-tone attack is to utilize the attacks exercise with breath attacks. Do the exercise at a soft volume and deliberate tempo while striving for a square beginning to one's split-tones without the aid of the tongue. Much like the application of breath attacks to traditional playing, they are incredibly useful for finding the correct balance of vibration in this context. Find the balance point where one relies on an immediate attack from the air and lip, while the articulations simply provide a small touch of clarity. As with m. 28, this section can also greatly benefit from the use of a practice mute.
Another singular challenge materializes from mm. 46 to 48. This figure presents the challenge of one executing a 2:1 split-tone, circular breathing it, and adding vocal multiphonics to its texture. Much like circular breathing a more standard split-tone, circular breathing a 2:1 split functions largely on one's ability to maintain a focuses center to one's embouchure inside the mouthpiece while the external parts shift. This is complicated by the fact that the 2:1 split-tone does not have the same form of anchor that higher split-tones do, however one can compensate for this by keeping her breaths short, relaxed and with the smallest amount of puff possible. This will require the performer to breathe more often, but this is built into the structure of the phrase. The periodic vocal rests that correspond with the 3/4 closing of the mute are intended to be
moments for the trombonist to integrate the necessary breathing into the form of the work and use the slight aid of the mostly closed mute, both in resistance and filtration, to assist with this precarious challenge. Allow the soft dynamic to create a calm but complex sound and simply allow the breathing to exist in that space.
The secondary issue in this phrase is the addition of the voice. Similar to circular breathing, the actual mechanics are no different than traditional vocal multiphonics, assuming that one can maintain a focuses center to the split-tone. The primary challenge with the integration of vocal multiphonics into a 2:1 split-tone is balancing the amount of air needed for the voice and extremely slow rate of air needed for the 2:1. If one sings fully and with a direct sound, she runs an incredibly high risk of destabilizing the split-tone. It is instead helpful to allow the voice to be diffuse and blend into the texture of the 2:1. This challenge is most effectively navigated by allowing the voice to integrate into the composite split-tone sound and be a portion of the sound that creates timbrel and spectral change rather than the direct audibility of dyads.
A modified but less delicate version of this challenge also appears at m. 76. This measure combines the voice with the more stable 3:2 split-tone. The difficulty with this measure is to balance the voice with the split-tone, which allows the downward glissando to be audible. Given the presence of sound a 3:2 split-tone creates, one must sing with a full and well supported voice to make an audible sweep in the timbre of the split-tone. This combinatory effect also sets the performer up for a balanced execution of the rest of the phrase. Once the glissando reaches its lowest point [a 1:1 with the top tone of the split], the trombonist drops the split-tone down to the lower tone while maintaining the voice and performing a crescendo. As this phrase is building into the dynamic climax of the work [m. 83], a drop in intensity at this exchange creates a reduction where the build should begin. If the performer can enforce a balanced sound between the voice and split-tone, a dynamic integrity will be maintained when the split-tone is dropped, thus allowing a foundation for a logical sonic build into m. 83. This balance also lays a foundation for the proceeding exchanges of split-tone and vocal multiphonics on the same interval. The practical execution of this challenge will take care of itself if the foundation is laid the moment the voice enters against the split-tone.
is a uniquely challenging and rewarding work which effectively
explores the physical mechanization of the performer while avoiding
the creation of a work that only aurally functions from the knowledge
of that process. While extremely challenging, facesplitter
a work that was made through an extensive collaborative process and
that process is reflected in the exactness of notation. That is to
say that all the materials were carefully worked on with the
intention that the work can be performed as it is written and the
sounds were chosen for their effectiveness and potential for
reliability. This is in contrast with it's B side, Bowel
which is a work that allows itself to mold to the limits of the
individual performer. facesplitter
exists as inorganic matter with a clear plan intended for a clear
execution of a musical concept. It is the author's hope that this
writing provides a starting point for a trombonist interested in
to begin a dialogue with herself as how to best approach the work and
create paths for his own playing style to fit into the required