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Transient Forms — two studies for orchestra
orchestra: piccolo (dbl. flute 3), 2 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 Bb clarinets, Bb bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon (dbl. bassoon 3), 4 horns, 3 Bb trumpets, tenor trombone, bass trombone, euphonium, tuba, timpani, 3 percussion, harp, piano, strings.
August 1990 - May 1991
Submitted as dissertation document in partial fulfillment of the degree Doctor of Music at Indiana University.
Indiana University Symphony Orchestra; Joseph Klein, conductor
Transient Forms is a pair of studies based upon models drawn not only from musical sources, but from mathematics and the natural sciences as well (specifically fractal geometry, evolutionary biology, and cosmology). In the first movement, Corridors, the formal design is a hybridization of several formal models. In one respect, it may be considered a kind of modular concerto grosso: unlike the Baroque model where the solo group (concertino) remains constant throughout, here the size and makeup of the concertino is continuously altered or adapted. It is also a passacaglia which unfolds within a palindromic superstructure. Rather than a continuous series of variations based upon a regularly repeating melodic passage, however, this passacaglia "subject" is derived from a series of expanding and contracting cells that recur in different guises within each variation. The composite form of this passacaglia/concerto grosso is the result of a regularly repeated numerical series which occurs at several levels; that is, each section and sub-section of the whole reflects the same internal design, a pattern which recurs even in the basic pitch and rhythmic cells at the surface. This fractal design is analogous to that found in nature within crystals or broccoli flowers, which are themselves structurally self-similar.
The second movement, Fluxus, consists almost exclusively of a twelve-note aggregate, initially spanning the entire registral spectrum of the orchestra. As the movement progresses, the cluster slowly collapses in upon itself, eventually resulting in a twelve-note cluster, then a quarter-tone cluster, and finally culminating in a full orchestral unison on C#. Fluxus is based upon the same numerical progression used in Corridors, though more rigidly applied: here the structural divisions are not superimposed (as in Corridors), but are rather arranged sequentially, creating the basic rhythmic cell upon which the entire movement is constructed. Continuous timbral modulations and registral compression occur throughout the movement, these being punctuated by a series of brief flourishes in the percussion, piano, and harp. The overall effect is similar to the subtle and continuous transformation of the surrounding vista one observes while traveling across long stretches of land. The aforementioned compression of register and corresponding increase in textural density occur within a tripartite form, each of the three distinct sections being characterized by a change in the degree of disorder (entropy) within the numerical system. For instance, throughout the first major section there is an increase in entropy, as the initial purity of the system is gradually debased by a buildup of internal activity. At the first large juncture, this buildup is abruptly halted, in a manner analogous to the way an automobile windshield wiper clears the accumulation of raindrops from a windshield. From this point the entire process begins again, continuing in the same manner throughout the second major section. The movement reaches a climax at the juncture of the second and third sections (distinguished by the highest degree of contrapuntal activity thusfar in the movement), whereupon the process is reversed: in the third and final section, there is a decrease in entropy as the initial order of the opening is gradually restored.
Transient Forms was premiered on 10 March 1993 by the Indiana University Symphony Orchestra, conducted by the composer.