Day of Electricity (2005)

for viola, electronics, clarinet
By Douglas Boyce

“All the sounds used in my Day of Electricity are derived in one technical way or another from a speech of Thomas A. Edison’s entitled “Electricity and Progress,” which was read at the opening of the New York Electrical Show, October 3, 1908. The work use segments from this speech as concret blocks, time-stretches and/or compresses them, and uses them as as elements of FM synthesis. In the speech, Edison tries to establish his own place in history by placing his own “electrical work” among those by which “nearly all of society has been revolutionized.” Edison’s essentially conservative vision of the future completely missed the artistic implications of the invention of recorded sound. Curiously, in Edison’s original advertising for his cylinders, he gave a list of their potential uses; only one in ten was the “reproduction of music”; other items were toys, telephone answering machines, and “Clocks that should announce in articulate speech the time for going home, going to meals, etc.,” Day of Electricity exploits a complete lacuna in Edison’s vision, the potential use of recorded sound (in this case his own voice) as a basis and source of musical material. I would like to thank the fascinating and vast for its tremendous resources, excellent design, and progressive approach to the freedom of information and culture.”, DB

Other works by Douglas Boyce:
“Once when father (George Ives) was asked: 'How can you stand it to hear old John Bell (who was the best stonemason in town) bellow off-key the way he does at camp-meetings?' his answer was: 'Old John is a supreme musician. Look into his face and hear the music of the ages. Don't pay too much attention to the sounds. If you do, you may miss the music. You won't get a heroic ride to Heaven on pretty little sounds!'”
--Charles Ives