time, unfolding for large chamber ensemble (2014)
time, unfolding was written for performance in the 70th Annual Composers Conference at Wellesley College. It explores the slow unfolding of musical materials and how it affects our perception of musical time. The idea of “unfolding time” manifests itself into the composition, and shapes the way it is structured in both the macro and micro levels. Ultimately, time is “unfolded” through the shape and movement that the music creates.
This piece features five sections, resembling a symmetrical arch form. The beginning section is built upon three twelve-note chords multi-layered with micro-rhythmic activities. It uses a gradual contraction of harmonic rhythm to progress. The pitches used are often register-specific, and they occasionally extend to the upper registers to create a richer timbre. In the next section, this static atmospheric sonority is dissolved. A linear progression that finds its root from the preceding section becomes the focus. This part projects the static harmony to the foreground, where it becomes more present, with contrapuntal activities and intricate rhythmic interplays between instruments.
The materials slowly migrate to a slower-paced passage that recalls the beginning texture. In this third section, the percussion and the piano resonate with the string harmonics and a mellow wind melody. A reverse process of materials soon follows. It allows the intricate activities to return, eventually building up to a final climax that has shimmering and brilliant textures, with the aid of aleatoric techniques. The work ends with the initial harmonic progression, combined with fragments of gestures from many previous sections.
The use of serial procedures is prominent in this composition. The pitch materials are entirely generated from a twelve-tone row that is stated in its original form for the first time in the second section. The row is often divided into sub-sets, which are used in combinations on different pitch levels by multiplication of either themselves or other sets. Additionally, the vertical sonority is controlled by intervallic relationships found within the tone row. Using these serial techniques allows me to create a homogeneous harmonic language throughout the work and to maintain control over the degree of atonality.
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