Spanning Tree by Michael Oesterle

Performed by percussionist David Schotzko at The Array Space on January 17. 2015.

Spanning Tree

A tree grows toward the sun, spanning the distance between itself and the light—each branch, each new angle reaching forward. In mathematics the branches of the spanning tree never grow back on themselves, never interfere with the light or each other, or, more accurately: “A tree is a connected undirected graph with no cycles.” It is a spanning tree of a graph if it includes every vertex (every corner) of the graph and every edge in the tree belongs to it. In reality (or art), the branches may not be straight, they might just sustain themselves beyond supportability, endure past simple logic or usefulness, exceeding the limits of prescribed space and ownership, straining to become something new.

In this piece the growth of the tree is the labour of a lone percussionist. The parameters for the development of the “tree” are distilled into a simple format – balancing sounds that are long and sustain effortlessly with sounds that are short and have minimal sustainability. In each cycle the ratio of instruments that sustain, to instruments that support a clean attack, is even: moving through 1:1, 2:2, 3:3, 4:4, 5:5, and 6:6. The ordering of the six parts is up to the performer, as is the choice of the instruments and their combination. The six stages are not designed to evolve from simple to complex, but instead, they outline musical tableaux which are presented to the performer in the form of six maze-like graphs. The way that the points of the graph are connected are determined by the percussionist. The choice of instruments renders duets of long and short sounds forming paths that lead us through, or perhaps, keep us trapped in the maze.

Spanning Tree was commissioned by Daniel Cooper for percussionist David Schotzko.

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