I got kinda crazy with this one. This work is actually three different "pieces" simultaneously. The first is [Ar]4s121d1 which is a member of my Rydberg series. Second, this piece contains the nineteenth and twentieth members of my brokenAphorisms. Finally it is the fifth installment of the Palimpsest series (though confusingly, only the third one composed at the time of this writing).
The Palimpsest l33t-sp33k code for this particular piece (see the series description if this makes no sense) is p=P, /-\=A, !=L, 1=I, m=M, p=P, s=S, 3=E, $=S, and t=T. Like all Palimpsest pieces, this is in two movements named simply I. and II., but each movement is simultaneously a brokenAphorism with their own convoluted titles. Throughout both movement names, I use standard physics abbreviations for various subatomic particles:
- p+ = proton
- no = neutron
- e- = electron
- e+ = positron [anti-electron]
- γ = photon
Anyway, that's probably about as clear as mud. Perhaps it clarifies slightly in the piece overview?
OK, so as I wrote in the Title Explanation, this single composition is a conflation of three different piece ideas. The [Ar]4s121d1 portion of the title indicates that the piece will be programmatically concerned with the collision of classical and quantum physics (hence all that crap about subatomic particles in the titles and score). There are more details about this on the page about the Rydberg series, but for this piece classical physics is generally represented by dispassionate presentations of tone-row melodies while quantum ideas are represented by aleatoric blasts of cluster harmonies.
the p/-\!1mps3$t ε component of the title indicates that the piece is in two movements; the first concerned primarily with cuts and juxtapositions while the second features more gradual combinations of musical ideas. To be honest this particular second movement is not so representative, but you will hear ostensible "classical physics" 12-tone melodies that are gradually effaced by clustery glissandoes and detunings reminiscent of the "quantum" sounds elsewhere in the movement.
Finally, the brokenAphorisms_19&20 part of the title indicates that these two Palimpsest movements are also two brokenAphorisms, and as such are rendered using a visual score. If you look at that PDF, you'll see that the first (largely "classical") movement is organized in the shape of an atom as they were once thought to look. This Bohr-model—wherein electrons orbit a nucleus of protons and neutrons like planets around the sun—is now known to be false except in very specific circumstances (such as Hydrogen atoms and the elusive Rydberg atoms that inspired this piece). The second movement illustrates its more quantum outlook with a couple of sections organized in the shape of Feynman diagrams, a visual system developed by Richard Feynman to illustrate the complex interactions of subatomic particles and virtual particles. For example, the first visual part of the second movement is modeled on this diagram:
OK, OK, enough! Let's talk about the damn music!
And but so anyway, the first movement alternates between two types of music. The first involves unorganized clusters, wherein all four instruments freely play notes in the "nucleus" of the score (sometimes in normal tuning, represented by open notehead "protons"; sometimes detuned, represented by filled notehead "neutrons"). The second musical type involves rigidly organized sections where the instruments intone rhythmically simple melody lines using the prime and inverted forms of a 12-tone row. These last are represented in the score by the three different speed ("energy-level") orbits around the nucleus. In the end, the four instruments move around and through these orbits, creating overlapping presentations of the rows until the abrupt and angry conclusion.
The second movement has a far more impetuous—almost improvisatory—sound, which is appropriate for a movement that deals with the strange and unpredictable interactions of quantum particles. After an inchoate introduction (using the aleatoric rhythmic pattern I refer to as "brain zaps"), the first Feynman diagram is performed. The trumpets play the role of a colliding electron-positron pair. As in the first movement, the electron is represented by P and I row forms. The positron, which is the anti-matter counterpart to the electron, is represented by the same row, but in Retrograde (or Retrograde-Inversion) forms. This echoes the strange, but scientifically sound, fact that positrons are indistinguishable from electrons that are moving backward in time.
The two trumpets collide on the same final note, initiating the trombone's entrance, which involves slow glissandoes, intended to represent the wavy lines used to represent photons. The trumpets reënter with another simultaneous row presentation (the circle in the middle of this part of the score). They play the same notes, but the first trumpet starts on the left side and moves clockwise around the circle, while the second starts on the right and moves counter-clockwise.
Wait, this is just supposed to be an Overview and I'm rambling on about every damn detail. Anyway, after another angry cluster section, the second Feynman part arrives. Two more row presentations ensue, but they are increasingly muddied by detuning and trombone (photon) glissandoes, reflecting the slow invasion of straightforward melody by clusters and rhythmic ambiguity. This is the musical "infection" referred to above as being characteristic of second movement Palimpsest forms.
*Whew*. There is no way anyone is reading this whole thing, right? Seriously, if this makes no sense, or is totally uninteresting or incoherent, just ignore it. Don't blame the piece for my nerdiness, it's got some really nice moments of both prettiness and nastiness.
This piece was written for the 2008 FONT festival, which celebrates new music written for the trumpet. It was written very quickly, and I was really worried about it, but John Wriggle, Chris Di Meglio and Tim Byrnes really dug into it, and it's becoming one of my favorite pieces I've written. Well, at least the first movement has.
This is easily the most complex visual score I've yet made, and I know that there are many out there who don't get why I would spend the time making it. I can't explain it very well, except to say that the visuals were the absolute inspiration for the structure of the piece and are intended to represent the sound as well as the program. As I've said elsewhere on the site, I think that form can BE content, and I think a score like this becomes even more a part of the artwork itself than regular scores do.
I delve into serialism relatively rarely, but it seemed appropriate, especially when my brain threw out the connection between retrograde (or reversed) versions of melodies and antimatter particles. Thanks brain!