One-Way Street

Title: One-Way Street
Instrumentation: Clarinet, oboe, violin, viola, violoncello, percussion
Year: 2006
Duration: approx. 15 min.
Premiere: Darmstadt Ferienkurse für neue Musik 2006
Performers: ensemble recherche

One-Way Street 1b

One-Way Street (Ming Tsao, Edition Peters, mm. 134–137)

One-Way Street 2b

Einbahnstraße (Walter Benjamin, 1928)

One-Way Street 3

One-Way Street (Ming Tsao, Edition Peters, mm. 169–181)

One-Way Street 4b

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence (John Ford, 1962)

One-Way Street (excerpt)

One-Way Street (ending)

Tsao’s experiment with inevitability toward incongruous but logically determined consequences derives from his study of and preoccupation with the Western film genre, his title evocative of the predictable and inescapable street duel that typically ends the narrative line. One can likewise hardly escape a connection with Walter Benjamin’s collection of street observations entitled Einbahnstraβe (One-way Street), in particular Tsao’s bowed wire hanger on a timpani, the jarringly banal, incongruous vibraphone double-glissandi, the bald, cold, mechanical sound of a prepared, clattering vibraphone motor (for well over two minutes): like physical sonic facts that speak for themselves devoid of metaphor, the penetration of the everyday into the incomprehensible, and the incomprehensible into the everyday, through a dialectical optic barring the mist, fog, and residue of Romantic or Surrealist aestheticizing. One-way Street is perhaps Tsao’s most explicit and extreme study of how the street engineer cuts through music (harmonics, pedals, drones, arpeggiation) in order to explore the manner in which an inexorable line ultimately allies itself with extreme manifestations of objective instrumental production. Thus, the default poetics of Tsao’s generally more ambiguous, fluid and category-defiant material and formal palette is tested and challenged in this work through its conceptual, sobering framework. This is the composer’s most youthful, rebellious…irreverent work, perhaps afforded by the initial concept of the Western itself.
Steven Takasugi