This peice was written during a two-month period from December 2001 through January 2002. It is scored for two woodwind quintets and piano. As the title suggests, this is an antiphonal piece with the two quintets positioned, one on either side of the audience and the piano centered between them in the front. The placement of musical material in these three physical locations around the audience is a significant aspect of the piece. As a listener, you should be able to perceive the sound moving around you in various ways throughout the course of the piece.
This composition is written in a somewhat episodic through composed style with some larger sections including a Jazz-like section. This Jazz-“like” section does not require the ensemble to swing. Familiar Jazz elements include the statement of a primary melody (the “head”) followed by a harmonization of that melody, with accompanimental “backgrounds” in the other instruments over an pattern based piano part.
The final section employs an interesting antiphonal effect, where a series of broken chords are articulated across the whole double ensemble. In this section there are three primary musically relevant variables, which are being manipulated, (other than actual pitch selection in the chords). They are frequency, left/right position and harmonic tempo, or the speed at which the chords change. In the following comments, I will address each of these variables separately.
Frequency: The chords are built by stacking one note on top of another, first from the bottom up and then from the top down, alternately. At the transition point between chords, if the last note sounded in the first chord is it’s highest note, that note then becomes the highest note (a common tone) of the next chord as it builds downward. Then when the last and lowest note of that chord is sounded, it likewise becomes the lowest note (a common tone) of the next chord as it builds back up in pitch. The number of notes contained in each chord varies widely. Some chords require fewer pitches than there are instruments available in the double ensemble, and others require more pitches than there are instruments available. In the later case, some instruments are used more than once in the articulation of a single chord. This is possible because no individual instrument sounds for the entire duration of any given chord. A chord is formed by each instrument fading in and out on whatever their particular pitch is, with their entrances and exits being staggered. This means that if a chord is being built from the bottom up, by the time the upper notes are being sounded, the lowest notes have stopped sounding.
Left/right position: For example, if a chord is being built from the bottom up starting on the left, it would start with it’s lowest note being sounded by an instrument in the left woodwind quintet. The chord would then build up using the instruments available in that left ensemble until such time as there were no more instruments available or the next note required is outside of the range of the remaining instruments. In either case, the next note sounded would be on the piano (center position). To achieve the fading in and out effect required for this section, the piano would roll in on the pitch and then let it fade off. The next note sounded after the piano note would then be positioned in the right woodwind quintet, and the chord would continue to build up using those instruments as needed until such time as there were no more instruments available or the next note required is outside of the range of the remaining instruments. In either case, the next note sounded would be on the piano (center position). We would then be back in the left ensemble and the process would repeat itself until the chord reached it’s highest note. That note would then serve as a common tone and the highest note of the next chord, which would then build down in pitch, using this same left/right positioning procedure.
Harmonic tempo: The rate at which the chords build through the frequency spectrum low to high and high to low, is continually varying throughout this section of the piece. This variable forms one smooth arch, starting out slow, gradually speeding up and then slowing back down again.
The combined result of these three independently shifting variables is the perception of the sound moving left and right in position, up and down in pitch and faster and slower in tempo. The independent operation of these three variables should be clearly evident to the listener, particularly if they know what to listen for. In the middle of the section where the harmonic tempo is at it’s fastest, it can be hard to hear exactly what’s going on, but that’s OK. The overall effect is still musical. (The variables are clear. They gradually become unclear. Then, they gradually become clear again.)
Click here to see a PDF of the score.