Friday, April 11, 2014

Stretching the canvas

Activities of the past fortnight have included:

1. Plotting (in Excel) the timings of five chromatic sinusoids, each sweeping from the midrange down to the low bass, then back up through the midrange to the high treble, and then back down to the midrange. But as in prior works, each traverses a different total span, and these different cardinalities cause the voices to change pitch at different times, generating a smorgasbord of suspensions.

2. Transcribing that numeric data onto musical staves. Given the close registral quarters, colored inks are essential for keeping track of which voice is on which pitch:

3. More or less concurrently with steps 1 and 2 above, deciding on an overall form of nine sections, in an approximate arch. The original extremes-of-the-piano-keyboard "frame" still opens and closes the piece, and will still push its way to the fore from time to time in between. From that, and from the tremolando chords that I doodled after Victoria's dry run for her performance at the Bulgarian consulate last month, I settled on an alternation between sections of irregular rhythm and those with a more regular pulse.

3. Changing my mind about the total duration of the piece; in hindsight, I ought to have delayed steps 1 (and especially 2) until I'd settled on the proportions of the various sections. Shameless Fibonacci fetishism leads to a total duration of 18:17, vs. my initial guesstimate of 17:30. Replacing the appropriate values in the Urlinien spreadsheet took 10 minutes or less, but then ...

4. Recalibrating the Ursatz. Rather than re-create the entire page, recopying hundreds of noteheads, it's a lot less work simply to relabel the x-axis:

And that brings us to today. This morning, I rewrote the Prelude (per my previous post, replacing the foreshadowings of a texture that is now destined for a different piece). Because I'm happy with the frame as is, the path of least resistance was simply to sketch directly onto the first page of the theremin part. First step was to add time indices (in orange ink) ... then to remember (duhhh) that I had previously disregarded the duration of the frame gestures ... hence the second layer of time indices (in red ink). Soon enough, I wound up ignoring the Ursatz for the Prelude, instead respecting the integrity of its pitches and composing a simple countermelody for the piano to interject during the theremin's sustained tones:

In compensation, the start of the first fantasy-transition includes quite a few embedded augmented triads, which simply aren't my cup of chai. I had originally imagined that I would need to add a sixth and seventh voice, hovering above and below ... but while playing with different arpeggiation textures, I hit upon one that doesn't resort to additional voices, other than a couple of octave duplications. The latter simplify the rhythm (vs. quintuplets or septuplets or what-have-you) and the harmony (ranging from four to five pitch classes, rather than five to seven), and (surprise, the surprise) contribute to a richer timbre.