'Greed’ explores the intense desire for wealth and power that characterizes human experience in our contemporary society. What prompted me to write a piece about greed at this moment in time was the recent financial crisis. What I did not want to do in this piece, was to tell an audience what to think about greed. Firstly, because I do not think that it is the function of art to tell people what to think. Secondly, because I do not fully understand the mechanism of greed myself. The piece is an exploration of the subject of greed, intermittently humorous, angry, hopefully provocative, contradictory and confused. Most us tend to discuss greed as if it were somebody else’s experience. Somebody else is greedy, not ourselves.  I wanted to take the opposite view, the view that if human beings are greedy, then I am unlikely to be the exception. Accordingly, Greed is about ‘us’ and not about ‘them’. The work seeks to examine the psychological behavior of the individual as well as the collective social mechanisms that create and sustain greed. The piece looks at the desire to accumulate and posses, the fear of loss, and the sense of entitlement that underpins the experience of greed.

The  ‘stories’ in Greed

Greed is in 4 movements. (5 movements if we count ‘With Usura’, a very short electro-acoustic intermission between the 3rd and 4th movements. Each movement unfolds a different ‘story’, connected to a particular aspect of greed.

1st Movement: Crazy Horse.

I wanted to introduce a different take on the subject of ownership and possession than the view which prevails in the modern world. It occurred to me that nomadic people would have a very different perspective on these issues since by virtue of their life style they are unable to accumulate wealth. Crazy Horse, the famous Sioux chief said in 1875 that “One does not sell the earth upon which the people walk”. I suggest in this movement, that in view of what our contemporary culture has become, these words have come to haunt us.

2nd Movement: ‘Gimme’ (it is not enough).

This movement explores greed at the personal psychological level and the corresponding  ‘give me’ mind pattern that is central to that experience. The consumer -the individual- is the main character of the story. The expressions ‘give me’  and ‘it is not enough’ are used as basic texts around which a repetitive musical discourse is constructed to represent the psychological experience of ‘wanting’ more, always more, than it is available or necessary.

3rd Movement: ‘Only love is important’.

In a humorous nonsensical way this movement looks at our feelings towards money. This short movement is followed by an equally short electro-acoustic interlude based on Ezra Pound’s poem ‘With Usura’.

4th movement: Spirit of Greed. 

This movement examines greed at the social/ethical level. Superficially the discourse  appears to be a backhanded apology of greed, since it develops the politically incorrect notion that ‘greed is good’. However, this ‘backhanded’ apology comes uncomfortably close to being convincing since it proposes instances of greed which are intrinsically human, proposing them as desirable and inevitable.  The theatrical situation in the movement is based on a the famous speech in the film ‘Wall Street’ made by the central character of the story, and it is presented in a style that is a mixture of cabaret, music-theatre, rap, etc.

The music

The musical ideas, the syntax and various sound worlds of Greed are drawn from a wide range of sources and traditions ranging from renaissance polyphony to hip-hop, world music, electronica  and club dance music.  This heterogeneous mixture mirrors the (chaotic?) nature of contemporary western culture.

I used samples and rhythms of familiar musical forms and transform them in various ways to create music that seeks to be both immediate and complex. Its immediacy may come from the sound quality of its ‘surface’, and it complexity from its multi-layered syntax and the formal development of its discourse.

A.V. March 2012

photo by Pedro Carneiro
This configuration was first suggested by Hiroya Honda and requires an extension pedal to reach and control the pedal of the vibraphone.

This photo shows the extension pedal built and used by Hiroya Honda.