Year of composition: 2021
Duration: ~12 min.
Date: Aug. 10th 2021
Musicians: Parker Ramsay
Venue: Oktaven Audio
Commissioned by The Adele and John Gray Endowment Fund for Parker Ramsay
The harp’s seven strings per octave make it ideal for engaging with contemporary diatonic writing. Throughout the piece the pedal mechanism of the instrument is only used a few times providing only a limited amount of pitch classes for extended periods of time. However, the harp is tuned in a scordatura that contains quarter-tones, so engaging the pedals shifts the scalar relationships drastically with the possibility to form scales with steps made of semitones, wholetones, quarter-tones, and three-quarter-tones. Thus, the sparseness in pitch-sets is balanced by the use of alien and novel pitch combinations.
The central pitch collection in the piece is reminiscent of a whole tone scale and is made of the notes D-E-F#-G#-Bb-Cqb. Only the Cqb violates the whole tone pattern. This breaks the infamous symmetry of the whole tone scale while at the same time channeling its familiar quality that is so deeply associated with the harp. This forms a quasi-“whole tone” scale that can be transposed, as well as employ different modes, each with unique relationships.
The formal structure of the piece is driven by a constant slowing-down of the material (with few exceptions). The experience communicated to the listener is of an ever-slowing sonic experience. By virtue of the piece continually slowing, new details are revealed that were seemingly obscure at faster speeds. The formal structure attempts to create a sense of infinitude that is often achieved by composers using fractals, but without the strict reliance on repeating structures.