Symphony No.1

Leisurely answers to long neglected letters
Scored for full orchestra (PDF score here)
Duration: 18′ 12″

The duration of this piece is intentional; 19′ is the generally recognized maximum length for retaining the best play back quality on one side of a long playing (33 1/3 rpm) vinyl record. The large scale structure is also loosely based on Corelli’s & Stamitz’s antecedent to four part symphonic form, and Haydn’s Symphony N0.104 (movements; I Adagio-Allegro, II Adagio, III Vivace (Minuet), & IV Allegro), although all sections temporally overlap. It took me a long time to realise the extent to which dynamic waves (dim & cresc) are congruous with visual waves, and here both melodic & dynamic curves are also explored at various levels, as can be seen by the dynamic curve of the wave form below.

This piece was written after the first peak of the covid-19 pandemic and the Ravel inspired canonic development of the opening theme (with hindsight) perhaps reflects the ambiguous, surreal and nervous (if not dystopian) nature of our contemporary socio-cultural zeitgeist. The palindromic (short – long | long – short) nature of the rhythmic & scalic material is utilised throughout, while section III (again with hindsight) pays tribute to Pete Townshend, Terry Riley, & Michael Nyman. The staggered entries of the staccato material at rehearsal letters G & K is inspired by the dawn chorus, and the accented sextuplet rhythms first introduced by the strings glissando at letter D (+20) is derived from an original song I wrote and performed in the late 1970’s (this symphony has been 40 years in the making after all).

Although this symphony is scored for full orchestra, in a global society that is both covid aware and on (or beyond) the climate crisis tipping point, a successful performance of this piece might involve any number of live and/or virtual interactions – from one instrumentalist with 23 sfz (sound file) renditions, to a full orchestra performing (with a click track) from numerous different locations.

The top down compositional considerations here addressed are all related to the relationship between scored/clock (click track) tempo and what is variously described as internal, mental, personal, and psychic tempo. Including; Scalar timing where “the error in estimating a duration is proportional to the duration to be timed” (Behusi & Meck, 2005), Time shrinking and Categorical Temporal Ratio Perception (Ten Hoopen et al, 2006), the Tempo Anchoring Effect (London et al, 2019), Grouping mechanisms & the Auditory continuity effect which “is sensitive to the precise temporal parameters of the various components…” (D.Deutsch, 2013, 190), and Time Dilation Caused by Oddball Positioning and Pitch Deviancy. “When a deviant stimulus is presented within a stream of homogeneous stimuli, its duration tends to be overestimated… a higher degree of oddball deviancy results in a greater dilation of perceived duration” (Nazari et al, 2018). Oddball textural material is here deployed at letters D & R.

Vertically, as with 16HZ & After Nancarrow #21, this piece uses amalgamations and juxtapositions of the C4 (A0 – Eb7) Palindromic Lie Scale, and related Outagraphic (“anti“) scales. NB; since I first began exploring this concept in 2017 there has recently been increased interest in complimentary or anti scales (see; Ian Ring, 2019).