Skumfiduser! - Mark Applebaum

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A single-movement piece for orchestra and computer-generated tape that opens with a rhythmic, techno-like dance groove and ends with a plaintive, nostalgic, lyrical melody passed among the orchestra and set against a backdrop of vinyl record surface noise. Along the way is an arresting hocket of pyrotechnic sparring between the tape and orchestra, each one trying to outdo the other. The distinction between orchestra and tape is sometimes blurred as the orchestra is employed to produce unorthodox sounds by acoustic means: shrieks from bowed cymbals and tam-tams, whines from high string harmonics, tinkles from glass bottles played with chopsticks, whistles from whistles, clattering from an old-fashioned alarm clock, and even the crash of a stack of glass dishes dropped into a metal trashcan. 

The piece was started in 1999 while living in Mississippi, set aside for some time, and later completed in California.


Titles for pieces usually occur to me quite early in the compositional process and as the result of a particular musical or extramusical agenda that defines the core of the artistic statement. A work’s title will often describe the music in some way, serving either as a transparent and public emblem or as a hermetic and private code. By contrast, this finished orchestral piece went in search of a title, I suspect because it was simply a through-composed sound object without a specific program or agenda, a straightforward attempt to write an orchestral work with tape. (Despite the generic and elastic character of the task I did abide by one particular self-imposed limitation: to generate all of the electronic tape sounds by composing digital pictures first and later transforming them into sound using the software platform MetaSynth.) Fortunately, I remembered that skumfiduser is the Danish word for marshmallows, and, more important, that this is the finest sounding word—in any language. So, it is with great joy and fascination that I offer this piece as an excuse to use this unlikely word. 

Mark Applebaum