Prose Anthology


Daniel James Wolf


DISTINCTIONS for small ensemble / CONNECTION (After William Billings) for ensemble / SCHOOL OF LEVITATION for any bowed instrument / ELECTRONIC PIECES: 1. All the wrong places, 2. Funhouse, or She Came Back, 3. One Last Wave / LARGE ENSEMBLE / BACKYARD CONSPIRACIES / SERENADE / SATISFACTORY RENOVATIONS OF FAMILAR CONTENTS / SARDINES


Material Press

Frankfurt am Main




for small ensemble

Make articulate the distinctions between players, their instruments, their techniques, focusing upon the smallest audible differences: each player to be heard with, against, and adjacent to, every other player, the comparisons repeated many times, each time in a more thoroughgoing examination with materials more finely tuned until such a time as the distinctions are no longer apparent.



CONNECTION (After William Billings)

for ensemble

Players enter one by one in overlaps, suspensions;

time exits carefully to coincide and connect with entrances,

to disappear into the articulations of the attacks;

at once, the attacks attempt to likewise disappear.




for any bowed instrument

The object to be bowed and the bow itself

are brought into contact, such that

the bow would be expected to excite the object it touches;

this is done without expectations about the qualities

of the sounds that may emerge from the contact.

With care, sustain the object-bow relationship

until a time when the resulting sounds have become,

in any familiar sense of the word, musical,

i.e. having established/asserted with itself or with other phenomena (environmental etcetera) tonal or rhythmic identity through repetition or variation etcetera.

Then, change the relationship between the object and the bow and begin again.

Excerpts from the on-going researches of the School of Levitation may be programmed to fit available concert times and spaces.




1. all the wrong places

for Rayner Banham

using amplification systems of different scales,

sounds suggesting large-scale human enterprises

(industrial, athletic, operatic etcetera)

are to appear in miniature reproduction

(via telephones, pocket radios, headphones etcetera)


sounds suggesting small-scale human enterprise

(culinary, romantic, horticultural etcetera)

are to be heard in enormous amplification

(via loudspeakers, bullhorns, radiophonic broadcasts etcetera)


2. Fun House or She Came Back (Like Celery in Soup)

for Ron Kuivila

using delay lines of various makes and characteristics,

both audio and video,

construct rooms, hallways, houses, churches, towns etcetera

where human activities are

sustained, repeated, palindromed, inverted, or otherwise extended

beyond conventions of temporal decorum.


3. One Last Wave

for Alvin Lucier

With oscillator, amplifier, and loudspeaker,

establish an audible signal

such that

resonances of the room and other sympathetic bodies

are not excited; and

such that

interference beating,



combination tones, and

binaural distortion

are not effected.

Middletown, 17 March 1988



in pairs, trios of

identical, similar, rather dissimilar, and altogether unalike instruments (and their players)

scattered variously:

in close together,

moderately distant,

and very far-apart geographies:

in concert hall(s)

and/or out-of-doors as possible,

playing long-breath-lengthed phrases,

in unison as possible,

each phrase initiated by a single instrument,

soon to be joined by its partner(s),

the partner(s) attempting to continue for some time past the expiration of the initiator,

each phrase somewhat more complex than the previous:

beginning with a single steady pitch,

(without wavering),

gradually adding vibrati,

eventually other distinct pitches,

none too rapidly approached or abandoned,

eventually small melodies,

the final phrase having reached an agreed-upon level of complexity,

each phrase separated by an arithmetically longer rest,

each phrase played to successive primary directions of an imagined compass

(do the players all imagine the same compass?),

only rarely allowing members of a pair or trio to play facing one another.

1984-85 Middletown, CT/Dallas-Ft.Worth, TX



for Nathaniel Mackey

Many instruments of all guises (and their players),

hiding, and in motion (singly, or in pairs or trios) about the perimeter of a large public space (of diverse resonant characteristics),

make short sounds of great volume (each short sound somewhat different from the next)

which may be answered by any other instrument(s) of different character and location with long sounds of small volume whose identifying characteristics have been agreed upon by all ensemble members before the performance;

following the performance of any short sound the performer(s) may move (inconspicuously, pairs or trios breaking apart, possibly regrouping) toward another location of contrasting resonance;

if ensembles of players decide to answer the short sounds, they may attempt to extend the long sounds through overlapping; very long sounds may be spontaneously joined by other players, possibly becoming rather large - albeit quiet - chords with slowly changing content;

duration may be fixed beforehand or determined by spontaneous assent of the players.

Middletown, March 1984



A concert grand piano & pianist are lowered onto the stage of the Hollywood Bowl by means of a hang glider released from a surrepticious dirigible.

Scales and arpeggios are executed during the descent.

Hope for a good breeze.




Project for ensemble

The components of a familiar landmark are individually or systematically replaced by resources available to an ensemble working cooperatively. The replacement parts selected should not place undue burdens upon particular members of the ensemble or upon the environment. The parts chosen should be cost and time effective. The final product of the renovation should appear in place of the original at a venue where the original might be expected to appear. It shall appear identified as the original with a brief printed explanation of the renovation available to all audience members.

Caution: the principal criteria for determination of the replacement parts should be the ability of the replacement to share the original partīs function in the original whole and not physical similarity.




for seven or more players, scattered about a space.

One player is determined (one potato, two...) to be "it";

everyone plays a sound of their own choice,

repeating and modifying that sound


it is as close to that sound chosen by "it" as possible;

the last one finished is now "it".

Continue until everyone has been "it".




Prose scores are a wonderful tool for getting ideas straight; figuring out the conceptual lines and limits of a work both in general and in particular. They are particularly efficient for describing situations that may lead to a field of outcomes, unforseeable (unforhearable?) in detail.

I started making scores with words - both as a way of communicating to musicians who had no knowledge of "conventional" notation and as a kind of sketching procedure before making a "conventional" score - well before I became aware of similar scores by others (Wolff, Cage, The Scratch Orchestra, Young, Oliveros, Stockhausen, Lucier, Mumma, Maue, Barlow), but the more I learned of this tradition, the more I began to appreciate the specific dynamics and advantages of the genre.

Prose scores demand surgical editing but invite whimsy; they need to be as technical as the assembly instructions that should have come with the bicycle that your father couldnīt finish putting together on Christmas eve; they need to be attractive to the reader/performer; they might have literary qualities of their own (my "Poor Dog Musics" was once published in a literary journal (I have since withdrawn this score, it being politically incorrect in the extreme)); they may be as precise or a general as you like.

I stopped making prose scores for public use sometime in the late eighties: the times and my own interests seemed to ask for new music in conventional notation. I do continue to make prose scores for private use and as a warm-up while composing a new piece, but the group of pieces included here strike me now as an accurate record of my musical work from 83-88, and point out areas of activity that have proven rich for subsequent work.

DJW, Frankfurt, 1996