2.2.Verticals, Windows...

Modal Clusters, Cluster Trichords, Endings

As mentioned above, I do not take under consideration the resultant verticals between the independent lines or other components of the texture, because the harmony is controlled horizontally, by the means of the background morphing modal network and its interaction with the foreground texture. However, there are some particular verticals which are deliberately placed as such and therefore they have to be considered in terms of their intervallic structure, and its relationship to the overall harmony. Here follows an example:


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Figure 9: Reduction of bb. 20-23 from The Sacred Flight. The morphomodal network is given at the bottom stave.


On the second line in Figure 9 this kind of verticals can be seen. They are modal clusters. That is the most natural and logical kind of verticals which can be used in the context of morphing modality, as they are a straightforward verticalisation of the background modal network and thus they naturally connect with all the other elements of the texture, furthermore their structure is underpinned by certain perceptional factors discussed throughout this text, and particularly in Chapters 2.1, 4.1, 6.1 and the Conclusion.

In Figure 9 it can be observed that the clusters do not retain their absolute intervallic structure when the four constituent voices move through the overall contour of that component of the texture. They always conform to the pitch structure of the overall morphing modal network (given in the bottom stave). Thus they are not simply parallel clusters – it is only the overall contour of the four constituent voices that is parallel, but the intervallic structure varies for every cluster, conforming to the background modal network.

There is a peculiarity in this example: the fluctuation on the b flat/natural is split across the registers and instruments, so that the b natural appears only in the violins, while the b flat occurs in the winds and double basses. As the registers are quite remote and the timbres are significantly different, it does not sound dissonant or unnatural when both the b flat and b natural sound simultaneously in bb. 21-22. In my opinion that is because of the natural logic of the fluctuation device in this context, although the passage could be also considered polymodal. I personally consider it as a fluctuation with an exceptional degree of overlap between the various instances of the fluctuating scale degree. That is an exceptional case in my practice, as normally, the fluctuating degree of the mode does not occur simultaneously in two instances of itself, as that is likely to produce a particular dissonant effect, which is not desired. However, it should be noted that in the context of fifth-repeating modes, (which will be discussed in Chapter 6.1), instances of this kind (where there would be a b flat in one octave and a b natural in another) are not a matter of fluctuation, but are part of the natural build of these modes, as it will be discussed below, and in that context they produce consonant results when required and if well crafted.

Although the verticals in Figure 9 span within the range of a fourth, the span of the vertical modal clusters used in the compositions in this thesis varies widely. The widest ones span across 6 octaves, like those in bars 110-117 of the Third Percussion Concerto (Example 3) or figures E-F in A Seasong (not included with the thesis)(Example 4). (For the intervallic structure of these two examples, see also Chapter 6.1.) The narrowest clusters of this type consist of 3 pitches within the range of a third. Clusters of this kind could be seen in The Sacred Flight in bars 58-60 in Oboes and Clarinet 1 (Example 5). There are only 6 possible combinations of pitches for this kind of modal clusters.:


Figure 10: The 6 possible combinations for three-note modal clusters (modal cluster trichords).


I find them very special, because they are very economic in their pitch content, while each of them conveys a different, unique sense of modal harmony. In certain conditions they fuse into harmonic gestalts, similarly to the tonal chords. That depends on the balance/similarity of the constituent timbres within the cluster, attack/articulation of sound, dynamics, register and length of note values. When such fusion does happen, it is to be attributed to the aforementioned spectral similarity of their overall pitch structure (as they are segments of the modal pitch structures discussed in the previous section (Chapter 2.1). (See also Chapter 6.1.) In fact, most of them could be seen as minute chunks of a harmonic spectrum (or one that is very similar to harmonic).

Whatever similarity to tonal triads might occur, I find a substantial difference and do not connect such modal cluster trichords into the same kind of chord progressions that are constructed in tonal harmony, as that does not sound convincing to me, probably because of the significant differences in the pitch structure between them and the third-based chords. I connect them through the morphomodal principles described throughout this text, which I find the natural way to work with clusters of this type.

These modal cluster trichords have been acquiring an increasing importance in my work and in the Third Percussion Concerto they are used very often. Particular examples can be seen in figures C-D (Example 6), M-N (Example 7), T-V (Example 8) in that score.

Vertical modal clusters are also essential to the final section of The Sacred Flight: Figure N to the end (Example 9). In this section two interlocking groups of rhythmicised modal clusters of wide spans interact with a melodic line.

The very end of this piece has proved to be controversial, as a number of composers have warned me that it is ‘too abrupt’ and ‘unsatisfying’. On the other hand, other composers, as well as non-musicians, have described it as ‘fantastic’. In the majority of cases I have not been directing their attention to that moment in particular. In the first version of the score the rhythmic juxtaposition of the interlocking triplets differed from the present version. After the first two performances, following advice by my principal supervisor Philip Cashian that this section could be optimized, which I have also felt at that point, I undertook a revision. The revised version is presented here and has now been performed twice by the Brussels Philharmonic, featuring in the recording submitted. In this version the ending sounds just as I mean it to sound, and I will not subject it to any further changes. As I mentioned, a large group of responses have been very positive towards that ending in the current version, and this coincides with my personal perception of it. I am aware that it is an idiosyncratic ending and for this reason it is likely to provoke diverse responses, including negative ones, which it already did, but that I do not mind either. Furthermore, I am being deliberately idiosyncratic, as that ending is rather similar to the very ending of The Mirror (Example 10), as well as the endings of Scenes 2 (Example 11), and 4 (Example 12) of the same opera, and the endings of Premonitions (Example 13) and Verklärung (Example 14). The endings of the Second and Third Percussion Concertos (Example 15) are modified versions of this kind of ending.

That is therefore a very important landmark in this group of works. Although I realize that in general it is probably a somewhat obsessive use of this device, it is also true that each one of these endings is to some extent different from the others. They are not meant to be necessarily satisfying endings, because they might be inviting something else to follow after them. For me there is a metaphor that shapes all these endings.

I see all my works as windows to a sound world which does not begin with the first bar or end with the last. It is always there and it is only a matter of opening the window and looking through it to this sound world. In relation to the endings, I have modelled them upon a visual image where a giant hand closes the window. In the case of The Sacred Flight (Example 9) there is something particularly intense and full of moving light that is happening in the sound world while the window is being shut. Therefore the last rays of light are twisting, struggling with the ensuing darkness while the mighty hand closes the window...100 (click)  The double basses in the last bar should be as loud as possible.


3.The Mirror

‘Clarity’ Vs ‘The Mystical’, complexity, variable perception,

orchestration, gesturality and symphonic drama

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