By David Balakrishnan, for string quartet. As heard on Bird’s Eye View.
My father loved his mathematics. His eyes would light up when he got to work on a juicy problem, squiggling away on his yellow notepads, his chosen workplace often being the bathroom, where he could sit undisturbed for hours on end, in total and oblivious concentration. “Aeroelasticity” is the subject matter and title of his last book; he passed away in March 2015. At the time of its publication in 2012, he was a spry 90 years young and still actively teaching as professor of engineering at UCLA, a position he held since the early 1960’s. My copy came with his grumbled complaint that the world no longer cared what was in between zero and one.
His dreamy rebellious musician son, having grown up deeply averse to the taste of a life trapped in the seemingly heartless monotony of numbers, I have zilch understanding of the hieroglyphics that comprise 95% of his writings. But I do resonate with the title. Simply said, the book intends to make meaningful and useable sense out of the incredibly complex patterns that continually changing air currents create when they interact. I see that as mirroring my own lifelong pursuit of composing stylistically integrated music drawing from apparently disparate musical genres and dialects, sifting for universal congruities buried beneath the cultural overlay. At a still deeper level it echoes the chaotic seeming turbulence of my life’s journey as I try to make sense and usefulness of that as well.
Some improvisational elements, optional in Lonesome George, mandatory in Flutter point. Length: 24:00 (to purchase individual movements separately, click on the respective title below)
The music of this movement has a lurching quality reflective of the way the term is used in engineering technical journals, often applied to the seizing up of gears in a mechanism, or, specific to the topic at hand, flight anomalies of jets buffeted by turbulent air currents. Length: 6:30
II. Lonesome George
Jazz primitivism a la Darius Milhaud, morphing into a choleric bluesy little ditty in waltz time, then a bit of fun at old George’s expense; fiddle hoedown grooves depicting the two bungled procreating attempts. After the second and more lively mating episode, a mournful Count Basie-esque tag leads back to the main melody, inevitably sinking back down into the proverbial primordial ooze that ever awaits. Length: 7:30
A Sanskrit term often translated as dissolution, indicative of the periods in between cycles of creation when the universe lapses into absolute stillness. On the more heart centered level, this movement is meant to evoke the sweet sadness of final farewells, as well as an opaqueness that leaves fertile ground for emergent tendrils of life and love to sprout anew. Length: 4:45
IV. Flutter Point
When a flutter point is reached in the interactions of air currents on a plane, any further change leading towards cessation would result in a crash. The music dances on the razor’s edge of a cataclysmic pileup, one that never materializes, at least not in the way expected. Length: 4:30