Assembly Required: See Instruction Before Use (2008)

for 5 melodic instruments
ca 5 minutes (variable)
commissioned by viola studio of Prof. Sally Chrisholm, UW-Madison

Premiere:  Dec 12th, 2008; Madison WI

Performance Notes

Assembly Required is written for five instruments (one soloist, four ensemble players) with the same range.

Assembly Required is a strictly crafted canon, shown here in score format. Essentially it is possible for four players to perform this as a canon. The first player begins at Line 1; when the end of Line 1 is reached the first player continues with Line 2, while at the same time the second player joins in at Line 1. When the second player reaches the beginning of Line 2, the third player joins in at Line 1; so on and so forth. The canon process ends after the music, as a 4-voice texture, is iterated for a certain number of times, as agreed upon by the performers. The performers can then hold the last note of their individual line as a fermata, concluding the performance.

However, Assembly Required is also a game of group improvisation: the seemingly strict music material becomes raw material to improvise, building an interactive musical experience upon this otherwise highly restricted canon form.


Create a musically interesting experience for each other. Assembly Required as a game is in three phases: it begins in order (Phase 1), bursts out to what seems like chaos (Phase 2), and returns to order (Phase 3). Players are encouraged to carefully listen to one another, ponder their musical role within and against the ever-changing aural context, and thus create meaningful interaction on the go.

The objective is different for the soloist and the other players. Other players pay attention to their own parts, with a general goal to reach the very end of their part (end of Line 4). The objective of the soloist is to be aware of everyone else, and through various process delay other players from reaching the end, thus “juggling” the piece for any desired duration.

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