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The Muses of Bedlam — a cadavre exquis in three parts
in three movements
May - August 1991
Created in collaboration with composers Michael Hartt and John Mickel.
Kevin Brown, contrabass
Michael Hartt, contrabass
The idea for the work The Muses of Bedlam came from bassist/composer Michael Hartt, who challenged his colleagues John Mickel and Joseph Klein to participate in the joint composition of a three-movement work for solo contrabass. The tenet was simple: each of the three composers would begin a movement, compose three measures, then send the fragment along to the next composer, who would in turn add three measures and send it to the third composer, etc. (It should be noted that in the final copy of the work, several of the original measures have been divided into smaller units to facilitate the work's performance.) This process was allowed to continue until all three composers had deemed the work finished (in this case, after completing four cycles over a period of approximately five months). The result of such a process is called acadavre exquis ("exquisite corpse"), a term coined by the dada and surrealist artists who first applied this technique to poetry and drawing. In the present work, the first movement was begun by Mickel, the second by Klein, and the third by Hartt. Though each composer's personality manifests itself throughout each movement, the resulting work is surprisingly organic, perhaps because of the dialectic nature of the materials themselves.
The Muses of Bedlam was first performed by Michael Hartt at Indiana University on 23 February 1992.