Nightwatch is designed as a companion piece to East Wind (1981), for solo recorder and tape. In both pieces, the entire tape part is constructed of transformed sounds from the solo instrument. Therefore, the live part is placed in a position of both contrast and similarity to the "magnified" sound environment created around it by the quadraphonic tape.
The two pieces are also related as complementary opposites, the recorder being an instrument where air is activated through wood, the marimba being wood activated over air. The I Ching hexagram associated with East Wind, based on the trigrams of wind and heaven, is inverted to obtain hexagram Number 16, Enthusiasm, based on the trigrams of thunder and earth. The sound of thunder, the text observes, is the prototype of music, and both have the power to release tension.
The hexagram also suggests the image of "the night watchman walking his rounds with a clapper and encountering danger." It is here we begin, in the darkness of night. As time goes on, the primal sounds evolve into musical entities, both solemn and exhilarating. By the end, the soloist is left entwined with his own musical image, in the ritual of musicmaking that constructs, as the I Ching observes, "a bridge to the unseen."
All of the material produced for the tape part was performed by Russell Hartenberger on the instrument which previously belonged to the composer's father, Arnold Truax, to whom, along with Russell Hartenberger, the work is dedicated.
Arnold Truax with the Deagan "No. 70 Imperial" marimba, ca. 1939.
(left) Russell Hartenberger, Arnold Truax, and Barry Truax at the premiere of Nightwatch, in Vancouver, Feb. 13, 1983; (right) Russell Hartenberger playing the 1930s Deagan marimba
Nightwatch is available on the Cambridge Street Records album Sequence of Earlier Heaven and the CD Song of Songs.
Sound Example available
B. Truax, "Sequence of Earlier Heaven: The Record as a Medium for the Electroacoustic Composer," Leonardo, 20(1), 1988, 25-28.
Nightwatch was commissioned by the Vancouver New Music Society for Russell Hartenberger, with the assistance of the Canada Council. The tape part was realized in the Sonic Research Studio at Simon Fraser University, and the live part written with the assistance of the composer's POD computer music system for sound synthesis and composition.