Crushing Twister
One day I was in a practice room of the school in East London where I sometimes teach composition. I was waiting for an unenthusiastic student to arrive. In the next door room there was a lesson in DJ skills. It was obviously very loud and I could hear the music that the DJ was playing very clearly. I became interested (and less annoyed that my student was skiving my lesson) in the idea of the work of the DJ. I was interested in how the DJ makes the needle of the record player jump forwards and backwards. How the DJ changes the speed when changing records or bends pitches when scratching. So I went next door and decided to sit through the lesson with the other students. Being inflicted with an obsessive personality, I started to research the craft of the DJ, or turn-tablism as it is called by the cognoscenti. There are some virtuoso DJ guys who scratch the record very fast against a rather boring (to my ear) steady hip-hop beat. It may all look really flash, but because the scratches are so rapid, you can't really hear what is actually on the record they are scratching eventually these scratches start to sound the same. I was more interested in a Canadian DJ, Kid Koala, who seems to use slower music and scratch very little, but in a very musical way, which is related to the musical phrasing of whatever music he is playing.

This was the initial starting point of my composition. Of course in "crushing twister" everything is original (I composed every single note, unlike the DJ who uses someone else's music) therefore I thought that I could treat the orchestra as a big turn-table and the conductor as the DJ. I also wanted to use two contrasting materials, one lyrical and the other very fast and rhythmic, and I decided that these should come from the same source, the centre group. These are the ideas which inspired me to start the piece. However, I never intended the work to sound like a DJ "scratching" at a rave (if I wanted that, I would simply employ a DJ and not an entire orchestra).

I divided the orchestra into three groups. There are two large orchestras on the right and left hand side of the conductor, and there is a very small group in the centre. I imagined that the centre group contains the "real" instruments which play music and the two larger orchestras "record" that music, and then start to "scratch", spinning it backward, forward etc. As a result, whatever the two orchestras play, it has already been played by the centre group. I also liked to characterise the "glissandi" which are often treated as just a "sound-effect". I have never used so many in a piece of music before. There are two different kinds of glissandi in this piece, in the fast section, the glissandi are very rhythmic and used to punctuate the rhythm (this is the virtuoso scratching part!) then in the middle, I imagine that the speed of the record is decreasing. As this happens there are fewer rapid scratches and the glissandi are used to help "phrase" the lines.

As I mentioned earlier, during my DJ research, I found the hip-hop rhythm which they scratch against very boring. So I decided to place two percussionists right and left to play like a clock, a rather broken one, without a steady pulse. Sometimes they support what is going on in the orchestra but most of the time they have individual functions.

Towards the end of the work, each turn-table gets over heated, and splits into two. Four record decks battle against each other culminating in self destruction. I had most fun composing this part!

Dai Fujikura (edited by Harry Ross)

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