Inland Ocean

Commissioned by the Ciompi Quartet

I designed the form of my electroacoustic string quartet Inland Ocean as a series of harmonic fields, each represented by a different panel of notated material on the players’ five-foot-long parts. The panels contained a variety of musical gestures using only the pitches of the corresponding harmonic field. Signals indicating that the players should transition from one panel to another were discretely embedded in the generative text of the work. This text is essentially a spoken conversation between my voice and a computer voice that changes with every performance, thereby assuring different musical results.

Here’s the strange program note I wrote for the premiere performance, which was given by the Ciompi Quartet, who commisioned it, in 2010. It’s a series of statements about various inland oceans as well as Inland Ocean:

The moon rises over the inland ocean even on revolutionary holidays. (Straits, Kenneth Koch)

INLAND OCEAN has no beginning. You simply turn it on.

If you're looking for the inland ocean that stretched from Illinois to the Appalachians, you missed it by about 300 million years.

INLAND OCEAN is not music to be played in a space. It is the space.

Inland Ocean is an aquarium in Hayden, Idaho.

INLAND OCEAN is a conversation between the Composer & the Computer mediated by the String Quartet.

There's no score for INLAND OCEAN but the parts are five feet long.

David Lynch has likened consciousness to an ocean. That means we have at least a puddle sloshing around inside each of us. Collectively the puddles, lakes & streams make an inland ocean.

Have questions? You can write to Inland Ocean, Inc. at P.O. 6949, San Antonio, TX 78209 USA.

In INLAND OCEAN the String Quartet chooses the music they play based on what they hear in the conversation between the Composer & the Computer.

There are many characters in INLAND OCEAN & many stories. You might only catch fragments & you might piece those fragments together differently than the person sitting next to you.

You might not catch anything. That's okay. There's nothing to catch. (Unless you catch something.)

If you zone out while listening to INLAND OCEAN, that's okay. Today we listen differently, multiply (adv.)

INLAND OCEAN can become the soundtrack for your interior monologue: Did you lock the front door? Are you satisfied in your current job? Is the person sitting next to you making weird noises?

Surfers in Orlando get their Lost boards at Inland Ocean on East Colonial.

INLAND OCEAN could be about communication & the failure of communication.

The String Quartet doesn't know what the Composer or the Computer might say. Consequently, they don't know what they'll play until they play it.

INLAND OCEAN always sounds like itself, but it's never the same piece twice: constant identity, constant variety.

Sometimes you'll hear melodies & beats, sometimes you won't. It's impossible to know what will happen.

INLAND OCEAN is its own metaphor.

The Composer answers the Computer's questions ("Tell me about...") with texts generated by a Markov chain manipulating books by Thomas Browne (A Letter to a Friend, Hydriotaphia, Religio Medici), James Fenimore Cooper (Pathfinder, or the Inland Sea) & Henry van Dyke (Little Rivers), plus a letter about the protection of ocean liners by Joseph Conrad & a conceptual laundry list by the Composer.