On April 27th, Ensemble Adesso are going to give the world premiere of my new piece for sinfonietta, called ‘Escapology’.
This piece is, as the title suggests, about escape, and takes as its source material a short fragment of a piece of electronic music I made.
I have always been interested in the ‘inessential’ components of complex sounds, such as what happens when a complex chord is distorted; a lattice work of harmonics appear, they react against each other and interfere in a fascinating, rhythmic way that is difficult to represent on paper. I hear these textures almost as thousands of little dots on some invisible canvas, constantly changing shape and making new patterns with each other, and I find it very exciting.
So, how to use this in a piece?
There is a principle in physics that every complex sound can be broken down into its essential building blocks (sine waves) – and so this is what I did; I took eight essential pitches from the sound I made, and also analysed the way each one of these pitches changed in level (amplitude), and used a programme called Max/MSP to transcribe the resulting rhythms. So this chord and all of the subtle rhythmic details and gradations contained within it form the basis of the first movement. I use this material very freely, and superimpose these rhythms on top of each other in many different configurations. So, in a sense, the movement is simultaneously a way of looking inside a sound I liked, and also a response to it.
You can listen to this first sound here: https://soundcloud.com/chrismccormackmusic/escapology-main-sound
And here is what all of the individual components of the sound look like. The black lines are the loudest parts. Notice the way the lines change their shading over time? Those are the rhythms embedded in the sound.
The second movement takes this chord and ‘buries’ it – it transposes the pitches down electronically, which affects the overall makeup of the sound. Also, all of the rhythms we hear in the first movement will become trapped. So the second movement is about being trapped, or submerged, or stuck in cement, and struggling to escape.
In the third movement, which is a kind of vulgar scherzo, the material breaks free, but keeps getting pulled back into the cement. The escape attempts gradually become more frantic, but you will have to come to the concert to see what happens.
Alongside my piece, there will be three other premieres by Laurence Osborn, Donghoon Shin and James Hoyle, who will also conduct.