Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Summer Music

This has been another summer without much summer weather, which is mostly okay by me, a person of pallor with a low tolerance for the hot and humid.   But the weather has been stifling enough that composing in long stretches is not the order of the day so, instead, I'm composing something substantial in a number of modules,  alternating with other projects, the most rewarding of which have been copying music for some friends and doing a bit of research about some more senior American composers, some of which has ended up — should the deletionists have mercy — in either new or seriously revised Wikipedia entries.

The piece I'm composing is for out-of-doors, in a garden, perhaps, with a soloist and a number of smaller ensembles around the space.  The first module is finished: At the furthest perimeter of the space, three cyclists shall lap lazily, each lap taking the place of a Cagian time bracket into which each cyclist inserts either a bell ring or nothing, with each of the laps in which the bells ring making another step in a Gray Code non-repeating Hamiltonian circuit through a graph: 123, 213, 132, 321, 231, 312.  The sequence of ringing (or silence) in each lap is notated, as is the particular style of each ring (quick, long, long-short, anapest, sustained, muted), but the pitches of the bells are not fixed (they could be different from one another or identical) and the possibilities, within a lap, for sounds to be isolated or overlapping, are endless.  This is compositional territory that I really like, with a mixture of the calculated and specific, the arbitrary, contingent and surprising, and the elements more closely related to my own taste.  

I can already hear, in advance, that this piece is going to be highly sensitive to the maintenance of certain leisurely pace, with lots of time — and space — between sounds, but still yet inviting some sounds of portent or event.  I can't wait to hear what comes next.  



Paul A. Epstein said...


I was struck by your use of the sequence 123, 213, 132, 321, 231, 312 (all 6 orderings of 123 with no element used twice in succession.) I've used it on many occasions and in many ways, most recently as a sequence for interleaving 3 melodic patterns:
A1 B1 C1 B2 A2 C2 A3 C3 B3 etc. The patterns are all prime in length to one another as well as to the interleaving sequence, so that the period of repetition is very long.

For me the sequence has an association with both change ringing and weaving patterns.

Daniel Wolf said...


I agree. These sequences are very useful for maximizing variety and I keep finding myself coming back to them.

(I've misidentified this as a Gray Code — which is also a Hamiltonian circuit through a graph and also musically useful).

Lisa Hirsch said...

Which composers have you been writing about?

Lisa Hirsch said...

(oops, forgot to check "email followups to")