Arbiter Records 136

Mother Mallard’s Portable Masterpiece Company: music by David Borden

music by David Borden

  • First publication of earliest live Moog band, New York 1977.
  • Released Nov 23, 2017
  • $16.98
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Track List

A leading force in the roots of Minimalism, Mother Mallard began as a pioneering group using Moog’s prototype synthesizers in live performance. These unique instruments led David Borden to develop an innovative contrapuntal style which expanded the embryonic phase of Minimalism through layers of rhythms and parts, a daring blend of High Renaissance and electronics. The experience of Mother Mallard live is heard along with a first release of Borden’s C.A.G.E. part III.

A CD text written by David Borden accompanies these historic performances.

In 2014 this CD was remastered for downloading.

  1. The Continuing Story of Counterpoint, Part One
  2. The Continuing Story of Counterpoint, Part Three
  3. C-A-G-E part III

In 1966-68 I was composer-in-residence for the Ithaca City School District, arriving directly from West Berlin, Germany where I had been studying on a Fulbright fellowship. In 1967 I introduced myself to Bob Moog whom I had heard about from several people around Ithaca. Bob had his company in Trumansburg, a twenty minute drive from Ithaca.

Bob was happy to see someone interested in learning and using his new invention, the voltage-controlled electronic synthesizer. To me, it looked like the cockpit of an airplane and hopelessly complicated. Bob though, took me under his wing and patiently taught me how to use it although I ruined some of his modules along the way. In fact, I hooked them up in such a bizarre way, not understanding what I was doing, that they redesigned several of the modules, not having anticipated someone as me who was totally unaware of the principles behind the design: otherwise they would have faced many returned synthesizers burned out by neophytes likes me. I didn’t realize that Bob was using me as a test person until several months later when it became clear that I finally knew what I was doing. He explained that I helped in the research to idiot-proof the soon-to-be famous Moog Synthesizer: I had been chief idiot, which upon reflection, I enjoyed immensely.
By 1968 I was hired as Composer-Pianist for Dance by Cornell University. Since the dance program was part of the Women’s Physical Education Program which in turn was administered by the Department of Athletics, we were a very insignificant part of the operation, and although my title looked good on paper, in reality I was listed in the directory as a Phys. Ed. Instructor, learning later that this was the lowest paying staff job at Cornell. But the good thing was there were no administrative responsibilities, no meetings to attend and one had only to prepare for teaching half of one class; the rest was improvisation which I had been doing since I was ten years old. This left plenty of time to work late into the night at the Moog Company (Bob had provided a key long before) discovering new ways to compose using the huge modular Moog and the four-track Scully tape recorder. Soon, I was using the synthesizer in all compositions, including those for dance concerts as part of my job.
With this new work, Peggy Lawler, the primary dance instructor/choreographer would arrange for students and staff (she and I) to travel to New York City to see modern dance concerts. This is when I discovered Merce Cunningham and the musicians around him including John Cage, Gordon Mumma, David Behrman and David Tudor. Seeing them perform live electronic music forever changed my way of thinking about performing music. Especially electronic music. Until then, I thought of it as making tapes in a studio; after that electronic music became something to be performed, even if pre-recorded tapes were occasionally involved. In 1969 the Cunningham Company visited Ithaca for a performance and some dance workshops. It was then that I met Gordon Mumma and David Tudor who would later participate in one of the first performances of Cloudscape for Peggy (composed for Lawler’s choreography in 1970), among my first all-synthesizer pieces designed for live performance. Late in 1968 I decided to start a live electronic (and amplified acoustic) group to present concerts of new and startling work, and remember getting ideas from Mumma and Tudor as well as Source Magazine, an avant garde music publication out of Davis, California which included new works by young composers.
One of the first things to think about was a name for the new ensemble: I wanted it to be ironic in some way but certainly didn’t wish for an academic sounding name. It was constantly on my mind for several days: while shopping in a supermarket, I leaned over their frozen food section and the friendly senior-citizen face of Mrs. Smith of Mrs. Smith’s Frozen Pies hit me and immediately I thought of my own grandmother, Lena Belle Mallard. She was called Mother Mallard because she had had her picture taken for the Boston papers to show five generations of Mallards of which she was the progenitor. Mother Mallard had a nice alliteration, but what else? The word ‘masterpiece’ followed because it began with an “m”, and besides, we were always joking about how it was no longer necessary nor desirable to think in terms of masterpieces. So now I had the image I wanted; a friendly grandmother behind which we would perform outrageous pieces like Robert Ashley’s Wolfman, a feedback assault on the ears while miming the movements of a crooner. A couple of days later the word ‘portable’ was inserted before ‘masterpiece’ as an added oxymoronic juxtaposition: Mother Mallard’s Portable Masterpiece Co. was thus born. Our first concert happened in May of 1969 in Barnes Hall on the Cornell University campus. It included Wolfman by Ashley, Pitch Out by Allen Bryant (for which Bard Prentiss made amplified string instruments, played on with metal bars and files), a piece by Dan Lentz which included a sinister looking man (Steve Drews) taking collection in the audience, and finally some “classic” pieces by Morton Feldman and John Cage. It was a success.
After this, I planned to compose pieces for live electronic performance using synthesizers. Bob Moog agreed to let us use whatever was available. My approach to composition was changing quickly away from the complex atonal methods being taught in most universities at the time to a simpler, tonal way. I was very impressed with Terry Riley’s In C, and started to work with drones and complex rhythms, bringing my jazz background into play.
My work as dance accompanist was also affected by this, as I tried out various repeated patterns during my daily work, and would work them out later at night at the Moog Studio. Using the four-track tape recorder was also appealing because it accentuated the contrapuntal approach I had always favored: now it was possible to compose one person’s part all the way through and then add another person’s part on top with each retaining an individual integrity. This technique is commonly called layering, but this type was more extreme­ like working with a cantus firmus, a Medieval practice. My first tonal steady pulse piece for the Moog was Easter, composed for a dance student in April, 1970. (It was finished a few days before Easter, hence the title.) Steve Drews and I performed it live with tape at Sage Chapel on the Cornell campus on Easter Sunday, 1970. This was the first live performance using a MiniMoog. We had the prototype.
At this time, Moog got a call from Trinity Church in Manhattan asking if he could recommend or supply a live performance involving the Moog Synthesizer for one of their Lunchtime Concerts. Moog was becoming famous as an inventor due to the acclaim of Switched-On Bach, an LP by Walter Carlos, a collection of Bach works realized on the Moog, even making the cover of Time Magazine. As Bob recommended me, I asked Steve Drews to play in EASTER, using a prepared tape. This was the first public performance in New York City using a MiniMoog. Although the official debut of the MiniMoog was months away (by Dick Hyman), we took the prototype to New York. We arrived at Trinity Church to find that we hadn’t been listed as either Mother Mallard or David Borden but The Moog Synthesizer: this kind of billing would dominate our appearances for the first few years, because no one else was performing with Moog Synthesizers except for Walter Carlos, who rarely performed live, and Richard Teitlebaum, who was in Europe.
During the summer of 1970 I worked for the Summer School as Barbara Lloyd’s accompanist. Lloyd was one of Cunningham’s star soloists and is now known as Barbara Dilley. She has been president of the Naropa Institute. Working with Barbara was a joy, and I often brought a Moog to the dance studio to improvise on. I also worked with visiting filmmaker Ed Emshwiller and wrote the soundtrack for his film Branches, which he hurriedly produced with summer students, and also composed Cloudscape For Peggy for an Ithaca College performance by Peggy Lawler. During this summer I also got to know Gordon Mumma (then visiting Barbara for several weeks) who greatly enhanced my knowledge of the perils of live electronic performance. At the time, he saw to it that all of John Cage’s ideas for Cunningham were realized electronically. The going joke was that Cage, whom everyone loved, and who was the pioneer of live electronic performance had trouble plugging in his electric razor. So Gordon took care of the technical problems. Steve Reich was another visitor to Ithaca that summer. Cornell was his alma mater, and he was also interested in seeing the Moog Studio. We have been friends ever since. Finally, Phil Glass passed through Ithaca the following fall resulting in an ongoing friendship.
During the summer of 1970, Steve Drews also started composing pieces for live performance using Moog Synthesizers. With the pieces I wrote for the Cornell Dance Program, together with Steve’s new pieces, there was enough for an entire program of our own music, using only Moogs with the occasional guest performer on another instrument. We invited Linda Fisher to join us for some concerts: she agreed and in 1971 became a permanent member, contributing her RMI Electric Piano as well. The Moog Company kept receiving requests for concerts and/or demonstrations, so they would always recommend us. That’s how we began travelling around, giving concerts. We also arranged to buy several synthesizers over a four-year period. We went to local banks for a loan, but were unsuccessful, so Bob let us pay him quarterly and refused to charge interest.
In the fall of 1971, Bob Moog, facing bankruptcy, decided to sell his company to a businessman in Buffalo, New York rather than see his customers go without technical support for the units he had sold them. Even with his fame, musicians were not flocking to buy his synthesizer, and music stores were still reluctant to stock them. So sadly, Bob left Trumansburg, and for five years was a techno-slave for the new owners, doing some public relations work and uninteresting technical work. When Bob came out of debt five years later, he threw a big party. In the years that followed he founded another business called Big Briar (he had signed away the right to use his own name in a business title) and then spent several years as a research vice-president for Kurzweil. He still heads up Big Briar, making theremins and other musical-electronic devices for live performance. Only recently has he been able to use his name again as part of his business logo.
When Bob left the area, Mother Mallard rented a rural farmhouse in Enfield, N.Y., between Trumansburg and Ithaca. Chris Swanson, a jazz composer and recent user of the Moog Studio, found the place. It was perfect: quiet, isolated, inexpensive. Together we shared it as our work studio. Chris worked mornings and afternoons, we took the nights. It was here that we really came into our own, rehearsing almost every night, drilling ourselves on how quickly we could change the dozens of patch cords between pieces and blindly set up intricate sounds (i.e., without testing them audibly before playing them). During the winter of 1971-72, Merce Cunningham came to Binghamton (one hour away from Ithaca). With him arrived some additional staff: his touring manager Jane Yockel and costume manager, Margaret Wood, formerly with Cornell’s Dance Program. She drove from Binghamton and brought Jane to dinner at my house. As soon as they arrived, one of the worst blizzards in Finger Lakes history hit. Jane and Margaret were snowed in with us for four days and nights, which turned out to be a blessing. Jane and Margaret, in partnership with Mimi Johnson, (a young woman who managed John Cage’s affairs) were in the midst of starting their own managing team for performing avant garde artists­ Performing Arts Services, which was partially born under my roof, and soon Mother Mallard became one of their first clients. It was through the efforts of Artservices, as it became known, that MMPMC began to be frequent performers in various SoHo performance spaces, as well as the WBAI Free Music Store [live concerts broadcast from Pacifica Radio’s New York affiliate.] These appearances brought reviews, including the New York Times, and also reached a much wider audience than we would have otherwise.
During this time, Steve and I (and sometimes Linda) composed new works to perform. A few of our pieces, like Steve’s Ceres Motion employed the use of a mobius strip tape loop: Gordon Mumma turned us on to these. They came in various time lengths. You could tape something live and at the end of the tape, turn off the record button and play it back instantly. Each of us had a stopwatch to keep track of the loop lengths. The first part of Ceres Motion is what is now commonly called a pad. Steve and I recorded the pad (around 5 minutes), played it back instantly, and being a loop, it would go on forever until we turned off the tape recorder. When the pad is played back for the first time, the piece changes into an up-tempo mantra with Steve improvising patterns on a Modular Moog and with his free hand, adjusting the knobs of a fixed filter bank accentuating different harmonics for each section. Steve found very exotic and beautiful sounds on the Moogs, and was a master performer on the ribbon controller. I kept to more simple sounds with emphasis on multi-metered contrapuntal figures that repeated at different time lengths. In the early 70s, this kind of music wasn’t yet called Minimalism­ critics would refer to it as “synthesizer music”, “trance music” or simply deride it as boring because “nothing happened.”
By the fall of 1972 we had developed enough music to perform three or four programs without repeating anything and started looking around for a recording label. Audiences loved our concerts, as our performances had achieved a professional polish while sounding fresh, original. Many phone calls, talks with many record executives, countless demo tapes were mailed ­ to no avail. After several months of no takers, I decided to start my own record company. Margaret Wood at Artservices thought it was a great idea. The only problem was, I only had half the money needed. Margaret calculated the costs of mastering, pressing and cover printing, approximately $1500. I only had half and couldn’t get a loan. During the summer of 1973, Mickey Arrandt, a budding photographer who had been taking pictures of us for several weeks, mentioned that his girlfriend, Cornell student Judy Borsher, was interested in making a business investment in the new record company. Judy, who would later take Linda Fisher’s place in Mother Mallard, made it possible to start Earthquack Records. Mother Mallard as an image had long ago gone from a friendly senior citizen to a duck. In fact, fans used to give us various duck gifts at concerts, so we went along, perching a duck decoy atop one of the synthesizers. The first LP was “in the can” by early fall, but with delays in printing the cover and pressing the disks, it wasn’t available until late January 1974. It was distributed through JCOA (Jazz Composer’s Orchestra Association), a group pioneered by jazz composer Carla Bley. Artservices, seeing that producing independent LPs and getting them distributed was not as difficult as they had imagined, started Lovely Music modeled after this first Earthquack LP.
Meanwhile, director Billy Friedkin had heard some re-broadcasts of our WBAI Free Music Store concerts and was interested in having me compose music for his new horror film. We were all invited to the cast party of The Exorcist at the end of shooting, and Billy introduced us to everyone as the people who were to do the soundtrack. In the end, he would use only three short pieces of mine for The Exorcist. He asked if I was considering a move to Hollywood, to which I said no. The year 1973 ended with offers from both Hollywood and Europe. I didn’t want to go to Hollywood, Steve didn’t want to go to Europe and Linda wanted to do her own thing. A few months after that film party in Manhattan, Mother Mallard would change forever.
In 1974, Mother Mallard continued performing at the WBAI Free Music Store and downtown venues like the Paula Cooper Gallery, the Kitchen, and various lofts in New York City. Otherwise, there were college and university concerts, mostly in the northeast. By the end of 1974 Linda let us know that she wanted to pursue her own path and by the summer of 1975 Judy Borsher joined us. There were a couple of interim keyboardists, but they were just temporary replacements. Judy proved to be excellent in every way, surprising us with her fluid keyboard technique and rapid grasp of the technology. By the end of 1975 Steve Drews decided he wanted to give up music and pursue a career in photography (he has his own successful photography studio in St. Louis). He was replaced by Chip Smith, a wonderful keyboardist who had played with Chuck Berry, including his Carnegie Hall concert. This group has remained in my memory with great affection. After several months Steve left Ithaca and withdrew his pieces from our repertoire. From that point until now, Mother Mallard has played only my compositions. Also with this group, I shouldered the financial responsibilities for all of the music equipment except for Chip Smith’s Fender Rhodes, the second polyphonic keyboard in our collection. When Linda Fisher left, I bought her RMI Piano. Now Mother Mallard had three Modular Moogs, two MiniMoogs, and the two electric pianos. Judy contributed her van for our transportation. Although constantly broke, we enjoyed touring and playing: this group was the last of the Moog-based bands. Unfortunately we never made a studio recording although there are live tapes from a few concerts [tracks 1 & 2]. It lasted from late 1975 to the summer of 1978, when I decided to spend more time with my family and give up the band for awhile.
The Continuing Story of Counterpoint (hereafter referred to as TCSOC) which was begun in 1976 and completed in 1987, derives its title from several sources: at Phil Glass’s Town Hall concert of 1974 he and his ensemble premiered a couple of pieces from a new cycle he called Another Look at Harmony. These pieces later became assimilated into Einstein on the Beach, but the original title struck a chord. My approach had always been contrapuntal, so I filed away the idea of using the word “counterpoint” in the title of a future series of pieces. While composing the first of these pieces (1976) the soap opera parody Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was becoming a huge success on television, which gave me the idea for a title that sounded like a soap opera. And lastly, although it was purely subconscious, I must have had The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill, the title of a tune from the Beatles’ White Album floating around in the psyche somewhere. It was perfect. It didn’t sound didactic, it alluded to history and contained a few multi-syllabic words instead of those awful one-word titles of esoteric foreign origin used by so many academic composers.
TCSOC began with a simple note-against-note idea [see back cover reproduction of the score] and my desire to develop a contrapuntal language, influenced primarily, but not completely, by contrapuntal composers from Machaut (14th century) to Josquin (15th – 16th century), the period before functional harmony was codified; I have always been drawn to this period due to an inability to ‘hear’ functional harmony. As long as I can remember, I have had perfect pitch and always listened to music as simultaneous melodies and rhythms, so that’s how I approach my work. Even though my “harmonic hearing” ability has improved with age, I still don’t hear functions, but absolute pitches.
Another catalyst in developing this contrapuntal language was the disappointment felt after several years of having taken all available courses in counterpoint at both Eastman and Harvard. Before Eastman, I also studied aspects of counterpoint with Hugo Norden at Boston University and with jazz composer/performer Jimmy Giuffre. But even after diligently studying Fux’s Gradus ad Parnassum (1725) on my own, I came away unfulfilled. This is the book that Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven treated as a bible. It is a complete step-by-step guide to modal counterpoint; Haydn never left home without it. It was supposed to lead to the promised land of intellectual control and spiritual soaring that mastery of the art of counterpoint brings with it. It brought me back to the realization that artistic theories may bring creative artists to the edge of the water, but jumping in is another matter.
So, I started these pieces with the intention of controlling large structures by composing not only simultaneous melodies that each had their own personality, but in some cases, simultaneous two-handed keyboard parts that could stand alone as solo parts but when combined with the others, lost their individuality to the whole. This idea came from Buckminster Fuller’s definition of synergy: behavior of whole systems unpredicted by the behavior of any of its parts taken separately. I liked this definition of synergy so much that in most of the parts of TCSOC, I composed one person’s part all the way through before adding another part. The pieces are held together by disparate meters (rhythmic elements) that resolve themselves in cycles and by the “harmonic” content of modal scales. The twelve parts are cyclical and refer to themselves in various ways, and all parts contain the basic note-against-note melodic figure (shown above) in varying degrees.
Originally these pieces were composed for an ensemble of three keyboard performers playing an RMI Electric Piano (polyphonic) and five Moog Synthesizers (three modular systems and two MiniMoogs). The Moogs were all monophonic, so a performer would play two keyboards, one for each hand, much like an organist. Sometimes a performer would play the RMI Piano with the right hand, and a MiniMoog with the left. With so many keyboards available, there were several configurations. Eventually another polyphonic keyboard was added (a Fender Rhodes Piano) which keyboardist Chip Smith brought with when he replaced Steve Drews in 1977. In the 1980s the ensemble went through major changes with digital instruments replacing the original Moogs, and the personnel expanded to include an electric guitar, soprano and wind instruments. With these changes TCSOC also expanded its scope. It was composed slowly over a period of eleven years, with all designed to be performed by three keyboard performers. The timbral quality of the pieces has changed over time, which they were designed to do. Even as they were being composed I realized that electronic instruments would continue to evolve and that the sounds would not be the same, although I didn’t realize that computers would eventually replace the analog instruments we had at the time.
* * *
C-A-G-E III (1975) differs in most respects from the preceding two C-A-G-E pieces. The earlier pair were built on a continuous loop using the pitches c-a-g-e. In fact, this was probably one of the earliest examples of a loop-based composition using a sequencer. The sequencer was analog and the prototype of Bob Moog’s 24-slot device which could be controlled in many ways, including random switching using filtered white or pink noise. For this third member of the group though, the loop idea was abandoned in favor of another way to present the c-a-g-e pitches, the main idea behind these pieces in tribute to John Cage.
Although aware of the music of Steve Reich and Philip Glass since 1970 when we met and established our friendships, the influences on my music came from two other sources: Terry Riley and Bob Moog. The first led to my return to a simple version of tonality/modality in conjunction with repetitive rhythmic cycles (later labeled “minimalism”) while the second changed the way I thought about the composition process itself and how music was produced, since synthesizer technology and its ancillary technologies (i. e. multi-track tape recorders, sound systems, mixers etc.) were new to me when first encountering them in 1967. (None of the aforementioned composers used synthesizers until well into the 1980s.) The other influences on my music since adolescence have been a love for jazz and counterpoint.
All synthesizers were monophonic in 1975, that is, one could play only one note at a time. You couldn’t play chord changes although a single note could trigger a chord, it could trigger only that chord at different pitch levels, a common device in Debussy’s music, known as “planing”; changing the plane of the chord but not its internal intervalic relationships. In addition, the keyboard connected to the synthesizer had no velocity control (like a harpsichord, no volume accents); it could only control frequency (pitch) and trigger the envelopes. Envelopes opened and closed a voltage-controlled amplifier that gave the oscillators an amplitude shape and also opened and closed a voltage-controlled filter (low-pass, high-pass or band-pass) that gave the sound its harmonic sweep. These limitations, along with the synthesizers having difficulty staying in tune during live performance, were major drawbacks for most composer/performers. The positive factors were a vast array of timbres to choose from and that Moog Synthesizers were indestructible.
With this in mind, try envisioning the ensemble of three keyboardists for which C-A-G-E III was composed: Performer One played an RMI Electric Piano with the right hand and a MiniMoog (prototype) with the left. Performer Two played a Moog Modular (custom) with the right hand and a Moog X (modular precursor of the MiniMoog) with the left. Performer Three played a Moog 1CA (modular prototype with memory) with the right hand and MiniMoog (made in Trumansburg, N.Y.) with the left. Therefore, each performer played two different keyboards all the time, one for each hand.
The sounds used for faster notes played on the Moogs were near-unison sawtooth waves lightly filtered so that the rich “buzz” of the Moog oscillators coupled with the lowpass filter could come through. This turned out to be a “signature” sound of the Moogs, most recently emulated on the new Novation analogue sound modeling synthesizers as the “Double Saw” sound. The slower notes, played with the left hands of Performers 2 & 3 were much the same except that the envelopes were slower to open and close. Towards the end, just before the MiniMoog bass sound enters, Player 1 has rests for the left hand which allows time to reset the MiniMoog by turning up the pulse wave tuned an octave below the sawtooth producing the classic Moog bass sound. In addition, Player 3 had the synthesizers tuned to an open fifth ( a simple chord rather than a single pitch) and used the planing technique mentioned above.
Whereas the first two C-A-G-E pieces were restricted to pitches found only in the Aeolian mode based on A (no sharps or flats), C-A-G-E III uses scales and modes in other tonalities as well. This is one of the reasons it is not a loop-based composition, although the pitches c-a-g-e are found in scales based on the key signatures of one flat or one sharp. Until the mid-70s, new tonal music restricted itself to one harmonic area for pieces of long duration in a kind of trance-inducing way. At about this time, Tom Johnson, a composer and critic writing in the Village Voice borrowed the term “minimalism” from the art world to describe a new music which had been going on for over ten years, starting with the work of La Monte Young and Terry Riley.
I was much influenced by a piece of Phil Glass’s at his 1974 Town Hall concert, called “Another Look at Harmony”, which has not survived (as far as I know) but was subsumed into his “Einstein on the Beach” score. First of all, I loved the title and decided then and there that I would use the word “counterpoint” in the title of my next big series of pieces. Secondly, the piece used harmonic change in a very tertian way, using melodic thirds which would change over time one pitch at a time. It set the stage for the kind of melodic/harmonic motion we all recognize as Phil’s language, his distinct voice. A simple, but elegant signature – a language recognized immediately. I knew right away that I could not imitate such a personal voice that was emerging, but did realize that the new music we were composing would soon become more harmonically intricate to match the already complex rhythms associated with it. My first foray into this area of changing tonalities within a piece (in the new so-called “minimalist” genre) was C-A-G-E III.
This modulatory approach was accomplished by focusing on scales, modes and counterpoint rather than gradual harmonic and chordal changes. The piece was arranged in repetitive modules, with each player changing modules on cue, at the same time. In the earlier C-A-G-E pieces, although there were repetitive modules for each player, the change occurred at a specific time set by synchronized stop watches, with each player having a different time cue. Since C-A-G-E III used changing tonalities, this arrangement would not work unless one allowed for a clash of tonalities, which I didn’t. The piece starts in the Dorian mode on G (one flat) and the first seven modules emphasize the pitches G & C, although other pitches are present. This section is played by Players 1 & 2. Modules 8 – 13 are in Dorian mode on B (three sharps) and the change is intentionally quite unexpected. In this section there are also hints of Mixolydian on E. The featured pitches in the section are A & E and all three players take part and remain active for the rest of the piece. Modules 14 – 19 oscillate between Aeolian mode on C and the Phrygian mode on G (three flats). The featured pitches are C, G, Eb, with Ab gradually becoming more prominent. Modules 20 – 23 comprise the final section in Aeolian mode on A, the parent key of the first two C-A-G-E pieces. All four pitches are prominent in this section although other pitches are present. The bass line uses C-A-G and F while the upper voices feature E in long notes and as part of fast figures. The pitch F is used to create a tension-release pattern with E.
C-A-G-E III was the last piece I composed before starting on “The Continuing Story of Counterpoint” in which the same kind of compositional techniques were used and expanded upon. Nowadays, it seems unbelievable that synthesizers were once so rare a sight and that they were so difficult to manage during live performance. Computer technology has changed everything, not only revolutionizing the way music is produced, recorded and composed, but practically all in our daily lives. Even though John Cage died in 1992, he is still a presence in my music via digital sampling and his enduring playful sense of intellectual and spiritual adventure.
— David Borden. January 7, 2003. Ithaca, NY

Note: the 1977 concert program contains the following statement:

“Mr. Borden is concerned with developing a self-regenerative modularly constructed music using rhythmically similar but intervalically diverse contrapuntal repetitive patterns resulting in synergetic constellations that develop both gradually and suddenly in sporadically changing harmonic settings.”

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