QUBe – the QUBensemble – is a performing ensemble at Queen’s that I co-directed with Steve Davis and Paul Stapleton. QUBe performs trans-idiomatic experimental and improvised music using a mixture of electronic and traditional instruments. We use graphic scores, game pieces, conduction and free improvisation. QUBe has staged sanctioned and impromptu performances in a variety of venues around Belfast.
A live performance version of my 8-channel tape piece one thousand seven hundred and fourteen questions, n Questions questions questions. The piece explores trivia in all its meanings, seeking to expose profound existential meanings within that single word. Texts are prepared by the individual performers and executed according to a predefined process. Happy accidents invariably emerge. n Questions has become part of the standard repertoire of the [sic] Stanford Improvisation Collective, led by Mark Applebaum, and has been performed many times. This performance by QUBe was recorded live in the Sonic Lab at SARC, Queen’s University Belfast, May 6, 2009.
The music in “War!” is determined by the outcomes of the card game War, played by two members of the ensemble. An attendant displays the winning card of each hand to the musicians, who interpret the cards according to a set of rules that depend also on the cards they have been dealt. The piece reflects the simultaneously routine and unpredictable nature of card games, and demands extremely dexterous thinking and playing by the ensemble. In the immortal words of a mysterious man on a train: ‘If you’re gonna play the game, boy, you gotta learn to play it right’. Premiered by QUBe in the Sonic Lab at SARC, Queen’s University Belfast on December 8, 2010.
Latex is a silent film I created, made of found video clips. This version contains an improvised score by QUBe, the improvisation and experimental music ensemble at Queen’s University Belfast. The score was performed live at the Black Box Belfast on May 12, 2010. The musicians had never seen the film before, nor could they see it while they were playing.
Below is the premiere of my piece Mixtape Music, for 10 musicians, performed by QUBe at the Black Box Belfast, May 12, 2010. Performers create individual realizations of their parts according to instructions in the score, recording specified sounds onto cassette tapes. In the performance, they have different roles according to the color of their t-shirts. Performers can force each other to play, stop, fast-forward, rewind, or alter the volume of their playback.
Music in the last century abounds in origin myths: Messaien composed his Quatour Pour la Fin du Temps in a concentration camp. Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads. Sonny Rollins discovered his new sound practicing on the Williamsburg Bridge. Dissatisfaction with equal temperament led Harry Partch to invent new tuning system. To these we can now confidently add: The day that QUBe devised Cow Pong. With musical nods to Steve Reich, György Ligeti and Gene Frenkle, this piece is a beautiful marriage of process, competition, polyrhythm and suspense. Performed by QUBe in the Sonic Lab of SARC, at Queen’s University Belfast on May 6, 2009.