An Object that is Not Oriented

(Alex Grimes January 2014) written for Eli Namay (double bass) and Phil Sudderberg (drum kit)

(from the composer's website)

I really felt that you were shattering the atmosphere around me, that you were creating a void in order to allow me to progress, in order to offer the expanse for an impossible space to that which within me was potentiality only, to a whole virtual germination that must be sucked into life by the interval which offered itself (Artaud, 1965, 24). 

an Object that is Not Oriented comes out of a study of ‘gestural spine’, inspired by Merce Cunningham’s discourse on the torso as a central axis of balance in his choreography.  The piece is an inquiry into the complex whole-to-parts relationship employed by de-coupled[1] parametric movement and to what extent disconnected parameters can develop independently in the same body (Gil, 2002).  It seeks to identify some of the ways in which parameters condition each other within a gesture via their contingencies within a given cascade.[2] It asks if the types of relationships between forces active within the body during a given gesture – in order for it to speak musically – exist along thresholds or strata that delineate a kind of field of structural integrity. To what extent can this ‘field of structural integrity’ of a given gesture be useful for building rules of parametric constraint?

On balance in his choreography, Cunningham writes,

 This involves the problem of balance of the body, and the sustaining of one part against another part.  If one uses the torso as the center of balance and as the vertical axis at all times, then the question of balance is always related to that central part, the arms and legs balancing each another on either side and in various ways, and moving against each other.  If one uses the torso as the moving force itself, allowing the spine to be the motivating force in a visual shift of balance, the problem is to sense how far the shift of balance can go in any direction, and in any time arrangement, and then move instantaneously towards any other direction and in any other time arrangements, without having to break the flow of movement by a catching of the weight, whether by an actual shift of weight, or a break in the time, or other means. (Gil, 2002, 119).

[1] “… wherein the individual components of sound-production on an instrument are separated and treated as independent polyphonic voices… the sounding surface is now the effect of multiple and often conflicting layers of physical action.” (Cassidy, 2004, 43).

[2]The nomadic sequencing (and re-sequencing) of parametric hierarchies based on information provided from a given tool and some general rules of combination will be referred to throughout this paper as a cascade.


Artaud, A. (1965). Artaud Anthology. San Francisco: City Lights Books.

boxing slow motion. (2008, June 10). Retrieved April 2014, from

Cassidy, A. (2004). Performative Physicality and Choreography as Morphological Determinants. Musical Morphology.

Gil, J. (2002). The Dancer's Body. In B. Massumi, A Shock to Thought: Expression after Deleuze and Guattari (pp. 117-127). New York: Routledge Press.