Clean Room Design: sous les mers (2010) - 15 minutes
Commissioned by le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne
for ensemble [1.1.2(I=bcl.II=bcl).1 - 1.1.1.0 - perc(1) - pno - 1.1.1.1.1]

Press
Celle de Christopher Mayo, Canadien vivant à Londres, est un autre exercice de minimalisme, avec des effets «hydrauliques» justifiant le titre, mais ses 13 minutes se développent d'une façon intéressante grâce à une instrumentation constamment renouvelée.

[The piece by Christopher Mayo, a Canadian living in London , is another minimalist exercise, with " water " effects justifying the title, but it’s 13 minutes are developed in an interesting way through a constantly changing instrumentation.]
— Claude Gingras, La Presse (April 26, 2012)
Full article

Programme Note
Clean Room Design: sous les mers was commissioned by Nouvel Ensemble Moderne. It was first performed August 20, 2010 at Domaine Forget by NEM conducted by Lorraine Vaillancourt.

Clean room design is a type of reverse engineering which is used to copy and recreate a design without infringing on the copyright or trade secrets associated with the original. The reverse engineering takes place in several steps. First, someone examines the original and writes a detailed specification of how it operates. Second, this specification is passed on to a lawyer who ensures that nothing written in the specification infringes on the copyright of the original designer. Third, an additional person takes these specifications and uses them to recreate the original design without ever having seen the original and without using any copyrighted material in the process. In composing Clean Room Design: sous les mers, I recreated this process, but played the roles of both analyst and re-creator myself. 
 
My idea was to extract musical material from an audio recording using computer analysis and then to use this material as the basis for a new work as if I was trying to recreate the original. I had been particularly obsessed with the many film and television adaptations of Jules Verne’s 1869 novel, Vingt mille lieues sous les mers and decided to use a very short clip from one of these as the basis for this process: Willy Fog 2, a 1992 cartoon version from Spanish Television. My intention was to take the resultant pitch and rhythm material as the shared DNA between the clip and my own new work. This musical material would be an unseen (and possibly unheard) common ancestor.
 
The ‘genetic material’ drawn from the Willy Fog 2 audio sample is completely unrecognisable in the final piece. The material is buried under so many layers that the connection is lost entirely. However, even if there is no practical, auditory connection between the original source material and the final product, I believe that there is a very strong conceptual connection which came about through my working process. I was always conscious of where the material came from and what its original purpose was. I also had the idea that this material might have its own particular tendencies related to its source – some sort of inherent aquatic, undersea adventurer qualities (I don't truly believe that these materials actually hold any kind of inherent tendencies, but the fiction that they might, led me to add another layer to the composition).

I was inspired by the idea that whatever I might try to do with these materials, their own tendencies would be revealed and would gradually overwhelm whatever my use of them might be. Clean Room Design: sous les mers represents several attempts to overcome these fictional propensities of the material. I decided that these materials would have one, very simplistic tendency which was related to their past life aboard the Nautilus—they wanted to descend. Clean Room Design: sous les mers is a fictional struggle between a material’s imagined tendencies and what a composer tries to do with them.

Performance History
August 20, 2010 - le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, Lorraine Vaillancourt, conductor, Domaine Forget, St-Irénée, QC, Canada
April 25, 2012 - le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, Lorraine Vaillancourt, conductor, Salle Bourgie, Montréal, QC, Canada