Thursday, May 12, 2011

evolution of "Etude in Metal"

In earlier entries I mentioned that I was working on a percussion solo featuring extended-range glockenspiel. I finally finished it.

It went through a few very different incarnations. The only idea that remained throughout was that the glock part would be based on the harmonics of the other instruments. So the process of writing this was boiling the piece down to that idea, essentially.

It took me awhile to get started on it this semester, but during spring break (first week of march) I had time to get out the first draft [pdf here]. I started this one by imagining a lot of different sounds using my chosen instruments, sketching these out on small pieces of paper, then categorizing them and laying them out in orders that seemed to make some kind of logical flow. After several different orders of ideas (I think I did four), I sketched out the draft seen above.

After bringing it to my teacher, we agreed that it was a bit plodding rhythmically and that it explored "linear" gestures rather than the glock-vs-gongs ideas that were what I really wanted to highlight. I then started on a second draft that featured only "chords" and spiced up the rhythm a bit. I used a rhythmic scheme based on Babbitt/Wuorinen's timepoint system, crossed with Ferneyhough's subdivisions. There are a series of 2/4 measures divided into various tuplets; the "row" if you will was 7 8 4 9 5 3 6. I used derivations of the same "row" of tuplets for the timepoints/attacks. Whereas Babbitt and Wuorinen would count just even sixteenths, I would count the same number of subdivisions and the next attack would fall on that timepoint number, regardless of its actual duration. [pdf here]

This take looks a little cooler by modernist-composer standards, but it still wasn't highlighting the idea behind the piece. The rhythm was actually distracting. So I started yet another version, doing away with traditional rhythm altogether, focusing solely on the sounds of the instruments and their combinations. The final result is very introspective, and, dare I say, pretty (I made a mockup recording for my jury, but it does not reflect all the articulation called for in the score - I'll post something when Trevor plays it for real). The final score is here [pdf].

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