Its source of inspiration comes from researching aspects of depersonalisation and detachment as a side effect of DBS surgery. DBS surgery, which stands for Deep Brain Stimulation is a neurosurgical procedure that uses implanted electrodes and electrical stimulation to treat movement disorders associated with Parkinson’s disease (PD) and other neurological conditions.
Electrical stimulation is applied as a series of pulses via an implanted electrode, in either the globus pallidus internus or the subthalamic nucleus. These are controlled by a device called a neurostimulator placed under the outer layers of skin, under the collarbone or in the chest or abdomen, which is then controlled by a remote device or an app on a mobile device. Patients can switch the stimulator on and off and control the amplitude of the oscillations, to relieve symptoms of PD. The procedure is, in general, very successful in alleviating the debilitating symptoms of PD, but there are issues of side effects that include feelings of depersonalisation, self-estrangement, and identity crisis. This is caused by the drastic personality changes perceived when switching the simulator on and off.
The composition focuses on aspects of loss of identity. Oscillators playing electronic signals, like those used in DBS treatment, are used throughout the piece, underpinning the musical material that ensues. Live electronics fracture and multiply the ongoing performance of the solo bass clarinet player. A gradual transformation of the player takes place throughout the 45 minutes of the piece that focuses on both the sound and the physical aspects of the instrument. There is a growing alienation and self-consciousness which creeps into the playing of the solo part, and at a certain time, using MYO physical sensors, the gestures of playing the instrument are used to control the live recordings which build up over the course of the piece.
The work was written for Gareth Davis following a commission by Stichting Musai in The Hague, a foundation set up to promote art works dealing with Parkinson’s disease and other mental health issues.