Defeat Device

Defeat Device (2016) for piano, electric bass, and percussion (6′)

Live performance 11/16/16 by Bearthoven
Penn Composers Guild


In 2015 Volkswagen was caught fitting their vehicles with “defeat devices” in order to evade emissions tests. One email to engineers as litigation approached revealed an executive desperate for any plausible explanation for what was still taking place:
“Come up with the story, please!”

At the outset of this piece, a simple process of insertions quickly defeats the sense of upbeat and downbeat. Throughout the piece I’m interested in developing these mechanically interlocking materials so that they “target” other elements of the music for “defeat.” I’m also interested in having these mechanical materials accrue lyricism in the way their elements assemble in new configurations. I want these mechanical materials to be entangled, desperately trying to come up with the story.

It was a joy to work with Bearthoven to bring this piece to life.