Cruel and Usual

2019-08-27T21:43:18Z (GMT) by Cat Hope
Cruel and Usual is a work inspired by an article by the Al Jazeera news service that discusses the use of solitary confinement in US prisons as incarceration rates explode in the USA. In some cases, prisoners have remained in solitary for over 38 years, or may even be children, and the reasons for going in there are not always clear or legitimate. This kind of confinement is known as ‘no touch torture’ by some.
In this work the string players are sampled at certain small moments of the piece, and ‘translated’ into much lower ranges instantaneously, which fade out or grow, and are sometimes ‘distorted’. The use of drone – long notes that change very little - acts as a descriptive metaphor for the lives of these that may find themselves in these situations. It was commissioned by the Atticus Quartet.

Performances:
Sept 2011: Northcote Uniting Church, Melbourne, Atticus Quartet.
May 2012: Art House, Melbourne, as part of 'Metapraxis', Atticus Quartet.

Review
"of the five works on the program, “Cruel and Usual” by WA composer Cat Hope was the most successful. Inspired by an article in Al Jazzera News that described the use of extended solitary confinements of adults and minors in US prisons (a practice also known as ‘no touch torture’) the piece has a string quartet each facing straight forward, in a representation of isolation, across the front of a stage. Behind them a computer is operated, sampling and distorting the glissandi of the strings through four bass amps into a growing bass drone. As the background noise and the glissandi drop in pitch so do the lights, achieving an emotionally engaging theatrical and musical synthesis. “Cruel and Usual” shows that “new music” can be both accessible and relevant." Josephine.Giles, Aussie Theatre.

To perform this work, you can download the video below and use that as the score, or download the iPad app, the Decibel ScorePlayer which has many more features such as the ability to network multiple iPads (one foe each member in the ensemble if desired), change the speed, move around for rehearsal etc.