spread in lobes like lichen on rock.


for amplified bass flute, bass clarinet, baritone saxophone, violin, viola, cello, and custom sampler keyboard (2020). Commissioned by ensemble mosaik and Bludenzer Tage Zeitgemäßer Musik.



Video of the premiere at Klangwerkstatt Berlin – Festival für Neue Musik 2020. ensemble mosaik conducted by Magnus Loddgard.



Program note:


The title of my work, spread in lobes like lichen on rock, refers to the inexorable propagation of things in nature. Borrowed from an excerpt of prose by Annie Dillard, the image of lichen’s morphology serves as a potent analogy for the metastasization of human industrial metropolises across the earth in recent millennia. What cosmic mechanism propels this unending progeny, which, in my view eventuates the catastrophic material profligacies of human industry? And what will happen when our capacity for excess is terminally exceeded? When there is nothing left to burn? Is there a future beyond the ecological ruin our species has brought about through our propensity for perpetual growth? If so, how will that future breathe?






Various stages of the compositional process of spread in lobes.





German live broadcast introduction given for Deutschlandfunk Kultur Radio

at the Haus des Rundfunks in Berlin, as part of the Ultraschall Festival für neue Musik.

Translation below:


And at the beginning of this evening now with the ensemble mosaik, there is a piece by Joshua Mastel; a young composer currently studying at Columbia University in New York, who wrote a commissioned work last year-- a piece for ensemble and electronics with the somewhat cryptic title “spread in lobes like lichen on rock”. That is a quote from the American writer Annie Dillard that describes the phenomenon of the lichen-like spread of something. This picture has been used as the basis for his piece, which deals with growth processes, especially with the contradiction which occurs between the natural organic growth of the plant world, and the man-made growth of economies or populations, which has come to contradict the health of our planet and nature. The image of an area spreading out on a rock, so to speak, more and more populated: Mastel sees this as a metaphor for the growth of industrial metropolises (ever more and ever larger ones).
A clear comparison on the one hand; on the other hand, rather paradoxical because the growth that occurs is not something natural that arises through some instinct-guided organisms but rather calculated processes which are instead mechanisms of sorts. And this fact naturally leads to the more and more urgent ethical question of the irreversible growth-processes with which we infect the world having an indelible negative effect on our environment.
To what extent in Mastel's compositions such profligacy spreads through growth processes, we let you decide for yourself. Now playing live in the large broadcasting hall of the RBB the ensemble mosaik, guided by Bas Wiegers: “spread in lobes like lichen on rock”.