[…] which constantly generates a pulviscular cloud […]

for chamber orchestra

Marc Yeats

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for chamber orchestra

Composer Marc Yeats
Composer

Year of Composition

Instrumentation

Forces

3 Flutes, Eb Clarinet, 2 Bb Clarinets, 3 Oboes, 2 doubling Cor Anglais 2 Trumpets in Bb, Tenor Trombone, Bass Trombone, Piano, Harp, Percussion (1 player)* STRINGS: 7, 5, 5, 6, 2.

Duration

ca. 20' 36"

work_preview

Categories (all composers)
Catalogue ID ce-my1wcg1

Notes

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Dedicated to my dear friends, Stephen Davismoon and Lauryna Sableviciute

This is a timecode-supported polytemporal chamber orchestra piece.

‘8. A classic is a work which constantly generates a pulviscular cloud of critical discourse around it, but which always shakes the particles off.’*

The term ‘pulviscular cloud’, in this case, transformed in my imagination into a pulviscular cloud of sound — of sonic dust — full of particles that are in a state of constant motion and flux, resonated with my concept of the sonic flux that coalesces during the performance of […] which constantly generates a pulviscular cloud […] into forms that constitute the structure and content of this music.

At times, the nature and relationship of sounds elicited through the performance of […] which constantly generates a pulviscular cloud […] may be deemed to verge on the extreme, overwhelming the ear with too much information across uncomfortably long periods. This condition is intentional: during phases of maximum polyphonic density where all instrumental parts are performed at simultaneously different speeds (polytemporal performance), the numerous layers of independent, sometimes heterogeneous materials compete with one another for dominance, generating a sustained, intricate, complex and frenzied state throughout several phases of the composition that may prove perceptually challenging to disentangle.

To prevent a descent into sonic chaos and establish dramatic impact between materials, extremes of polytemporal density are contrasted with less dense and less chaotic sounding materials. This pattern of establishing phases of extreme polyphonic and temporal density followed by phases of comparatively sparse material stratification marks the cyclic journey — the narrative — obsessively undertaken several times within the piece’s 21-minute duration, between perceptual obfuscation and perceptual clarity that constitutes perhaps the most significant structural feature of the piece. Underpinning and driving this narrative is an often manic, relentless forward momentum that like a moth inexorably drawn to a flame, burns itself out in the composition’s final moments where all sound returns to the silence from which it emerged.

This is music of extremes, of hyper-activity, hyper-density, quicksilver colouristic fluctuations, of perceptually complex sound combinations articulated through demanding, virtuosic instrumental part-writing that requires great technical facility, expressive insight and emotional stamina from performers that mediate its notation and instantiate its sound. Here, performance outcomes are a gamble — a balance — between an aspiration to control outcomes through specific notation and how players mediate notation to produce what is actually heard. It is the uncertainty around how this balance will manifest as sound in performance and the sonic flux these uncertainties produce that excites me.

I would perhaps suggest to listeners that they surrender to the music’s visceral energy, its life force, textural diversity and intricate, ever-changing sonic relationships; ultimately, to surrender to its coruscating affect without any need to comprehend what it is beyond a pageant of entangled sound journeying through time to coalesce as music.

*From 14 definitions of what makes a classic in Italo Calvino’s Why Read the Classics? (Penguin Modern Classics 2009) op.6.

©Marc Yeats June 2019

Instrumentation:
3 Flutes, Eb Clarinet, 2 Bb Clarinets, 3 Oboes, 2 doubling Cor Anglais 2 Trumpets in Bb, Tenor Trombone, Bass Trombone, Piano, Harp, Percussion (1 player)* STRINGS: 7, 5, 5, 6, 2; 41 players spatially organised as:

Group 1: Clarinet in Eb, Flute 3, Violin, Violoncello, Guitar, Piano and Percussion (1)* *Marimba [5 octaves]; Deep, resonant bass drum; 4 Tom-toms ranging from low to high; large, deep Tam-tam; 4 differently pitched resonant wooden objects ranging from low to high (non-specific drums, boxes, barrels, bowls, planks, logs etc.) or 4 differently pitched temple/woodblocks ranging from low to high; 5 differently pitched resonant metal objects (boxes, tubing, saucepans, plates etc.) ranging from low to high; High-Hat; Gong (resonant – specific or non-specific pitch); Metal Wind Chimes (can be unorthodox ‘home-made’ cutlery jangles or such like to create the effect of resonant metal wind chimes).

Group 2: Oboe 1, Clarinet 1, Clarinet 2, Violin solo, String Quartet

Group 3: 4 Violin 1, 4 Violin 2, 4 Viola, 4 Violoncello and 2 Double Basses

Group 4: Flute 1, Flute 2

Group 5: Two Trumpets in Bb, Tenor Trombone, Bass Trombone

Group 6: Oboe 2 doubling Cor Anglais, Oboe 3, Harp