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 As the music proceeds it is superseded by Theme C as the most currently important material in the centre of the piece.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.