“...the man who creates the music...is dealing with the roar rising from the void and imposing order on it as it hits the air.” (James Baldwin, “Sonny’s Blues”)
For me, one of the biggest challenges of composition is to mediate between intuition and logic, between limitless possibilities and rigorous constraints, between emotion and reason. This challenge was very much on my mind while writing Symmetries. The compositional process was unusual: my initial sketches for the piece were of its structural framework, and the motivic material (normally a starting point for my composition) only developed in the final stages.
At the heart of the work’s structure are three independent textural layers. Two of the layers are defined by pairs of pitches which are symmetrical around a center, while the third is a four-note canon which repeats independent from the piece’s meter. Opposing this rigorous framework is a series of freely-composed motives which rise out of the texture; different versions of each motive are played succesively or simultaneously.
All these elements combine to create effects of gradual change and transition. The structure is a single large arch: the piece gathers in tension, pitch density, rhythmic intensity, motivic length, and dynamic to reach a tremendous climax, then eventually subsides into a state much like it began. Within smaller sections of the piece, arpeggiations gradually modulate from one rhythm to another, harmonies alternate voicings within an instrumental choir, and notes slowly pass from one instrumental choir or soloist to another.
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