Sciosophy – An Analysis

Sciosophy is written for four people performing on two pianos.  I wanted a homogeneity of sound, no use of other timbre for contrast or allure.

There are four different themes.  Each one centred on a bass line.  I will call them A, B, C, D.  The music proceeds by juxtaposing these themes.  I wanted to create tension and resolution by a. the way these they are juxtaposed, b. the internal development of each theme and c. the effect that a theme’s internal development has on its neighbouring themes and the resulting imposition of these effects.  I wanted to create a map of the piece.  A way to collate and navigate the material.  The tricky part was finding the right map for the right material.  I don’t expect a listener to identify this map at all but I do believe it aids the flow of tension and resolution throughout the piece.

Each theme has its own character, working within the same constant pulse.  Theme A is of paramount importance at the opening.  It hammers home its message.  It is percussive and no-nonsense and has 6 beats in a bar.  As the music proceeds it is superseded by Theme C as the most currently important material in the centre of the piece.  Theme C is more flowing and lyrical.  It is built on a cliched harmonic sequence and has 4 beats in a bar.  Theme B is more transitional.  It is always just around the corner.  It has 7 pulses in a bar and a forward momentum towards something else.  Theme D doesn’t enter until halfway through the piece.   By this time the juxtapositions and development are affecting the other themes.  When Theme D arrives it has already incorporated some of these elements from its outset.  It is percussive, rhythmic and transitional.  It also has 7 pulses in a bar.

The internal development of each theme is simple and audible.

In Theme A events are added to each repeating unit.  The addition of events and occasional change of figure is plotted within Theme A’s overall duration.  For example, the first outing for Theme A has an overall duration of 10 bars.   In one piano part this is split in a descending mathematical sequence of 4 bars, 3 bars, 2 bars and 1 bar.  Each of these units incorporates a new percussive attack.   In another piano the 10 bars are split in half, a new figure starts and the grouping of pulses changes from two in a beat to three.

In Theme B, with its 7 pulses per bar, I group these initially as 2 + 2 + 2 + 1.  At successive repetitions of this phrase the shorter group – 1 – moves back through the bar.  So, it is grouped as 2 + 2 + 1 + 2, then as 2 + 1 + 2 + 2, then 1 + 2 + 2 + 2 before arriving back where it started.  For me this has an internal logic.  I can hear the process, it’s quite simple, but from its start is embedded with implication for the next change.  Therefore there is a semi-circular structure which telegraphs when the process will be over.

In Theme C there are different groupings going on over that somewhat square harmonic movement with 4 beats (8 pulses) in a bar.  One piano part has repeating units containing 5 pulses, another has units containing 12 pulses.  This variation in length creates flow and a phasing between parts until the ultimate synchronised meeting point which they are all heading towards.

Theme D has no internal development.

The map of the piece emphasises themes by the amount of time given to them.   So at the outset Theme A is heard over 10 bars.  Its next appearance lasts for 6 bars, then 3 and then 1 bar.   Theme C has the opposite durational path.  I want to create tension and resolution in this piece by managing expectations, using systems to set up implication and prediction but then diverge from that flow.