A Rube Goldberg Machine, is a machine that achieves trivial tasks through an overly inefficient and convoluted process.
You may have seen “the marble rolling down a track to topple a domino piece that hits a lighter that lights a candle that burns a thread that releases a lever that...” well, you get the point. And all for what? To have the machine finally add some salt to a dish or perform some other trivial task; a task that clearly could have been achieved in a much more straight-forward manner.
It’s the complex and innovative way such a machine works, that gives it its raison d’etre. The machine stops being about the outcome, and instead lets us focus on the way that outcome is achieved. Often, the more elaborate, clever, and creative the machine is, the more we enjoy seeing it do its magic.
It occurred to me that our music is also kind of a Rube Goldberg Machine. On the surface it appears as if the goal is to move from
dominant to tonic, or from tension to release. Yet, a cadence on its own is hardly a piece. And so, composers find elaborate, clever, and creative manners to get from tension to release, making the process intentionally inefficient for the sake of that journey. A journey that may include twists and turns, and marbles and levers, and... you name it.
This is my machine.
A Rube Goldberg Machine
Instrumentation: Symphony Orchestra
Year of composition: 2019
Duration: ~4 min.
Date: July 18th, 2019
Musicians: Piotr Waclawik - Conductor and ACA Orchestra
Place: Aspen Music Festival