composer ian vine introduces and explores his new piece  individual works for violin (2012), premiered by Emma Lloyd three times last Monday at gaussian¹ (23/07/12)…
“In 1999 I visited Denmark to spend time with friends for the New Year/Millennium. One day we took a trip from Copenhagen to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk. They have some great stuff, and in particular I was interested in seeing the Alexander Calder stabile that forms part of their permanent collection.
Fig 1: Postcards comprising  individual works for violin. Image © Ian Vine 2012.
“I’m interested in the plasticity of material, in the what-if-that-follows-that?”
I’ve long been fascinated with Calder’s work, the mobiles in particular, and have often used it as a way of describing the treatment of objects in my music. It’s a useful way in for the listener. Several early works refer to his work in their titles: espinas (1999), [lit. spines] refers to the ligaments of the mobiles; three black moons (1999), is a title borrowed from a Calder mobile; and ten white leaves (2000), an adapted title from various works that mention leaves, for example, Twenty-one White Leaves. My music is never a transcription of a particular Calder mobile, it simply takes the concept of a kinetic object that moves in space, allowing it to be seen from different angles in time. Fine Art has always been of interest to me in relation to my music. I used painting as a way of thinking about layering colours, or instrumental blocks, so that what you hear on the surface is coloured by what is underneath. Making my own paintings became a way of painting myself out of a particular corner in my music. But that’s another story.
“the work in the Museum that stopped me in my tracks”
All of this by way of introduction to the work in the Museum that stopped me in my tracks, and kick-started a thread of works of my own over the last 12 years. Over Ten Thousand Individual Works (1987/88) [Fig.2], by Allan McCollum is a collection of small hand-painted similar objects that are laid out on a 5x8-metre surface. As the title implies an Individual Work is unique, and consists of components cast from ordinary everyday objects. McCollum devised a combinatorial system to allow him to make unique works using the simple components.
Fig. 2: Allan McCollum: Over Ten Thousand Individual Works (1987/88)
On the face of it the work isn’t even particularly beautiful to look at, the objects are all painted in the same green/blue enamel and laid out in a matter-of-fact, tightly packed fashion. But as soon as you start to look at an Individual Work, and then the one next to it, and so on, you begin to sense the vastness of the idea. It’s completely overwhelming, because you can’t even begin to take in the concept of that many unique items. I suppose what I admired most about the work was that it was hardcore; it took an idea and followed it through to the end, in extreme. It’s also curiously modest though, it doesn’t shout about itself in loud colours, it’s almost understated. It’s beautifully simple in its complexity, and for me shares aspects of Minimal Art that I admire.
In the next months I began to incorporate the idea of multiples into my music, deciding that it would be the perfect way to conceive of an album on CD to be played. The use of permutations already ran through most of my work, but the listener is only ever presented with a fixed result; I had already made the decision on the order of events. So it was that I designed the writing on water series, a collection of electroacoustic pieces that could be played in any order on CD - 39,916,800 different orders. I later made several ‘frozen multiples’ pieces, where similar and yet unique objects were played in succession, the works themselves were fixed (objects series, 2003-).
“It would take 49 days to play each individual work without pause.”
The first piece to directly incorporate multiples into the performance itself, and indeed acknowledge the McCollum in the process, over 5000 individual works (2007), for piano, can be played in 5040 numbered versions, each lasting 14 minutes. It would take 49 days to play each individual work without pause. In ohne titel (2008), for flute, horn, cello, and electronics, there are three simultaneous versions of the piece, again a frozen multiple. The piece was written for performance in a gallery space with the instrumentalists placed in different rooms, the audience is free to walk through the space, therefore creating their own unique versions of the piece. Last year I wrote a collection of pieces for electric guitar ensemble specifically for the recorded format. forty works for Richard (2011), is designed to be played in any order, there are as the title suggests 40 pieces, which means that there are 815,915,283,247,897,683, 795,548,521,301,193,790,359,984,930,816 permutations.
[Fig. 3] 5040 permutations from over 5000 individual works, detail. image © ian vine (2012)
So why is it that I’m interested in making thousands of versions of something? Have I heard them all? Are there any that I don’t like? Are some of the questions that I have been asked over the years. It’s quite simple really, and I’ve mentioned my answer earlier in this text. I’m interested in making something pure, in carrying an idea through to its logical conclusion. I’m interested in amusing myself when I’m listening to a piece, so that I’m surprised by what comes next, instead of knowing the piece rather well. I’m interested in the plasticity of material, in the what-if-that-follows-that? I’m interested in the flawed beauty that means I will never hear all of the versions of something I’ve written.
I made  individual works for violin, on 27 May this year. I decided to make the piece using postcards to facilitate the shuffling process [Fig. 1], and because it makes a beautiful physical thing out of a score. And because when Matthew Sergeant asked me if I’d be interested in making a multiples piece for Gaussian1, he said that it would be good if we could perform more than one version. So the components are short, each card lasts between 30 seconds and 1 minute, the shortest individual works are 3½ minutes, the longest 4½ minutes. An individual work is made by selecting five cards from seven and then ordering those five, there are 2520 permutations. Three individual works were chosen and given their first performance by Emma Lloyd at Gaussian1, in Manchester on 23 July 2012: #1718; #1595; #1214.
“a unique piece in an age of infinite reproduction”
I’ve recently started a new series, one that is the logical next step to the objects series, limited editions, and individual works. I’ve been working on the idea since 2007 of making unique pieces, where there is only one copy. In unique pieces (2012-), I will make a number of one-off 7” vinyl singles. Each piece has a unique instrumentation, and is written afresh using a unique set of components. While the pieces will share certain characteristics, and even sound similar, no two will be alike. The pieces are then recorded and pressed onto vinyl. This will be the only copy, a unique piece in an age of infinite reproduction.”
ian vine - 2012 - [www.ianvine.com]