Listen to The Seasons: Vermont/autumn (1980-1982). Written by Malcolm Goldstein. Complete, unedited premier performance: February 26, 1983; Real Art Ways, Hartford, CT. Performed by Robert Black (double bass), Marck Steven Brooks (wood flutes, electric guitar, percussion), Joseph Celli (oboe, English horn, ocarina), Malcolm Goldstein (violin), Tom Guralnick (tenor, soprano and bass saxophone, vaccuphones), Brian Johnson (vibraphones, percussion), Kenneth Karpowicz (intensified vocalizing, accordion).
The Seasons / Vermont (1980-82) is a large-scale composition for chamber ensemble and magnetic tape collage. The number of players and instrumentation of the chamber ensemble is unspecified. Rather, throughout each movement, Goldstein encourages each player to use multiple instruments, found objects, the voice, and the body to create sound. The total duration is roughly one hour divided into four movements: one for each season.
The tape parts for each movement form an aural collage of found sounds evocative of each season, and the performers are encouraged to create a unified aural environment between the live ensemble and the tape collage. As such, the tape collage serves as a launching point for the musical materials themselves, whereby Goldstein specifically indicates that the live musical materials should serve as an extension of the general texture and the quality of samples heard in the tape part.
In each of the scores, Goldstein freely integrates standard and graphic notation, as well as found material, in order to illustrate the desired musical results. Thus, the notation for each movement is unique. A set of comprehensive instructions accompanies each movement explaining every detail of the notation and the desired musical result.
“Summer” (15’) and “Autumn” (12’30”) are event-based structured improvisations, consisting mainly of isolated musical events separated by silences. For the performers, Goldstein places the emphasis on deep listening practices and responsiveness to the overall aural context.
In “Winter” (25’), Goldstein contrasts passages of structured improvisations with fully composed music, the former having distinct musical entities interacting with each other to create an overall dynamic texture, whereas the latter features contrapuntal lines written in standard and proportional notation.
“Spring” (7’30”) is a structured improvisation using a map of a system of brooks in Vermont as a guide for the musical process, where each vein of the system of brooks serves as a possible musical trajectory. Goldstein indicates a basic set of musical materials for each player to use in his or her own way, resulting in a very complex texture where the dynamic emphasis is on subtle changes in timbre.
Overall, Goldstein succeeds in capturing highly complex, dynamic, and aesthetically unique musical environments within an integrated notational approach. Casting aside the restrictions associated with the strict use of standard notation, Goldstein is free to explore the boundaries between composition and improvisation, the individual performer and the ensemble, standard and non-standard performance practice, as well as the distinction between traditional sounds, non-traditional sounds and noise.