Other people show pictures of their kids. I go on about my three ‘workhorse’ gigging guitars…
Those who have been reading my more recent blogs will have no doubt seen recent updates on my in-progress minimalist work. If you have, then you’ve most likely heard (and hopefully enjoyed) the trailers and demos for two of the pieces four movements. The most recent article on the wider work can be read here.
Now, these four movements all have final names. The overall pice itself also now has a working title: Urban Sequencing (a city distilled).
This working title reflects the mental images which occur to me when writing these movements. Urban landscapes and the movement of people/transportation is a recurring theme.
I’ve often thought of cities as living organisms, for good or bad. Seen from a distance, they can look like bright, smoke-beltching monsters fed and cleaned out by ant-armies of people. Most psychological and sociological studies on the matter will tell you that we also behave differently in a crowd. With that in mind, I wished to explore different aspects of the modern urban environment through minimalist music. Using simple, repeated phrases overlapping one another, in conjunction with the mathematic movement titles, I am attempting to recreate the nature of living in the city.
The piece’s four movements can be represented as follows:
This opening movement implies images of rapid moving transport, much like the above pictures of asian railway stations implies. But it could equally represent crowds of people, or indeed, the frantic state of mind that city life and cause in some individuals.
You can hear a short trailer for #6×5, as well as read a little bit more about this movement, in this article.
#5×4 (adagio)Though this piece was initially concede as a reflection on the life of a dear family member who had passed away, this adagio movement also serves to highlight reflection in modern life. Even in urban environments, it is possible to find time to pause and reflect. But even in this act, we are still in the presence of a sequence, so in keeping with the theme, the city never leaves us in this work.
You can read more about #5×4 and hear a demo recording of the full movement (as it is right now) via this article.
Pic by Tony Burns.
The third movement, #6×3, is a dance. A dance of sequences in triple time. Lively and animated (hence the subtitle ‘animato’), this short jig is also the scherzo of the work.
In #6×3, I hope to reflect how beauty can be found in random patterns, from the movement of pedestrians as they avoid each other, to traffic in roundabouts (like in the beautiful picture of a roundabout in Shanghai from National Geographic, above).
I am still putting the final few touches to this movement, but i hope to upload a demo for you guys to listen to very soon.
Pic by Adam Magyar (via Rupert Cook).
Finally, #5×2 brings us back to the frantic, hurried feeling from the first movement. This time round, however, there is more order. Unlike #6×5, this final movement is made up of five phrases of just two notes each, unlike the five note patterns from the earlier piece.
The resulting music, to my ears, implies that the city has played a part in shaping you, in organising it’s components to more effective use. Oiling the cogs, if you will. however, if you feel ending this piece feeling like a small cog in an uncaring machine, perhaps there is another way of viewing this. Going though all four movements in sequence, we start frantic and chaotic, before slowing down to reflect. We then enjoy the ‘joke’ of the piece, the dance, before ending in a more organised manner – and therefore with a less stressed attitude (at least, that’s one theory!).
As with the third movement, this piece still requires a little more ‘tweeking’ before I’m ready to release it into the world, even in demo form. However, I don’t think it’ll be too long before you get to hear it and let me know what you think.
Overall, this entire piece should last just under fifteen minutes. Though my demos have so far been showcased on piano, I originally intended for this music to be recorded by an ensemble of tuned percussion, and hope to record a version in that style this year. I may decide to experiment further with alternative instrumentation – any suggestions?
I’d also be interested to know what you think of my concept overall. As always, you can comment or contact me through my social media channels to discuss, if you so wish.
Until next time, stay happy, and keep playing!
Following on from the re-publication of last week’s trailer for #6×5 (which you can read about by clicking here), I thought it was time I told you a little more about the wider work (as yet untitled).
#6×5 was an idea I had for a movement of a minimalist work. It’s title comes from the six separate motifs, each five notes in length. The interplay, juxtaposition, and indeed, dissonance derived from how these motifs are arranged becomes the complex – yet ultimately simple – basis for this frantic piece.
Since it was the first idea of the four smaller pieces which came to me, I still consider this to be the first movement. Originally arranged for tuned percussion, the trailer demonstrates ensemble or solo or duo piano. The opening statement (which starts the trailer) forms a strong setup for the piece. Clearly showcasing each of the six motifs, we then descend into a something much more complicated. From here, the listener should know roughly what to expect from the remaining four movements.
The next movement to be almost entirely completed is #5×4. Again arranged for solo or duo piano, this is the slow movement of the work. Using the same principle as #6×5, this slower, more reflective movement features five individual lines which use four unique notes each*.
[*On average, for which a lengthy explanation may be required. To read this, please see my post of #5×4, coming soon]
The remaining two movements currently remain very much in the drafting process. I have yet to settle on the final motifs which will form the basis of these pieces, though the most recent versions have shown a lot of promise…
What I can tell you is that one of the movements will feature a triple time beat. These will utilise triplet-quaver phrases for their motifs, though how many variation will end up in the final draft is yet to be seen. It could be called ‘3×3′ or ’14×3’ depending on how strict I am with myself in the distilling and editing process!
You have spotted a pattern by now, which means you’ll be able to guess the number of notes in the final movement…
That’s right: two.
Again, as with the triplet-time movement, I have yet to ‘kill my darlings’ and finalise which motifs will form the base components for the the piece. My greatest challenge in both of these movements is the overwhelming similarity to the work of Philip Glass. I have long been a fan of Glass, and his reputation as one of the foremost minimalist composers leaves me with the unenviable task of following in his footsteps, hopefully without appearing as a poor imitation.
My next post will be a publication of a full-length demo for #5×4. In the meantime, you can watch & listen to the trailer for #6×5 by clicking here. Enjoy!