Benjamin Thigpen


  • Benjamin Thigpen
  • Year of composition: 2001
  • Duration: 15:36
  • Instrumentation: 8-channel fixed medium
  • Commission: Ina-GRM

… but I let you fall back into chaos,
like diving bells.


balagan is a study in disintegration. In Hebrew, the title means “mess.” As I composed the piece, the principle problematics for me revolved around the issues raised by this title: disintegration, chaos, disorder. But disorder is not just the absence of order; nor is order the simple exclusion of disorder. The two opposites do not exclude each other; they are folded into and founded on each other. The question (or one of them) is how things fall apart, and how in falling apart they take on orderly, coherent shapes.

I like to think that the form of balagan resembles that of the “constructures” my daughter used to make when she was 2 or 3 years old. There are many small objects arranged on the floor. Seen from a distance — as you enter the room, say — they give you the impression of a big mess; but if you look more closely, you become aware of a strong coherence in the juxtapositions and successions of objects. If you follow these links, you discover a changing, evolving logic; you get the feeling that it could lead almost anywhere, but never arbitrarily — that each step, however unforseeable, would display an inner necessity. In the end, if you continue, you are drawn into a kind of labyrinth, filled with interconnections and relations.

The sounds, all of acoustic origin, were transformed primarily by fragmentation — the extraction and superimposition of small bits of sound — and hybridization — the combination of the spectral energies of two different sounds. This processing was done by programs I wrote in Max/MSP; for the octophonic spatialization, I prepared a streamlined version of Ircam’s Spatialisateur, to which I added numerous modules for automation and control.

Commissioned by Ina-GRM, and composed in their studios in Paris (France). balagan was a finalist in the Concurso Internacional de Música Eletroacústica de São Paulo (CIMESP 2003, Brazil).