Triple Music II

Triple Music II

Sir William Glock’s commission which resulted in Triple Music II was specifically for a work for three orchestras. This started me thinking in terms of things triple, from the general (the layout of the orchestras, their constitution, the overall form) down to the particular (the types of material, the organisation of pitch and rhythm). But the starting point for this process of particularisation was the concept of a verbal matrix which would germinate many works for different instruments, different environments, realised by many different performers, even composed by many different performers. The matrix is simply ‘Make triple music’. It is now common property. Triple Music III is already planned by me, but Triple Music IV onwards might be composed or realised by anybody.

The constitution of the three orchestras is as follows:

Orchestra I (left) 60 strings; Orchestra II (stage) 2 pianos, 2 harps, 2 organs, celeste, vibraphone and bass guitar; Orchestra III (right) 34 wind

Each orchestra plays three types of material characterised by the following elements:

(a) melody-texture (b) regular rhythms and (c) irregular rhythms. At the opening, Orchestra I plays type (a), Orchestra II plays type (b), and Orchestra III plays type (c). But after 6 minutes Orchestra I switches to type (c), so that rapport is set up between it and Orchestra III, until Orchestra III itself changes; and so on. By means of a very slow rotation of the three types in a different order and in sections of a different length in each orchestra, constantly changing perspectives of juxtaposition, combination and opposition are set up. The climax of the work is reached when Orchestras II and III are playing sustained melody-texture material while the strings hammer away insistently in irregular rhythms. The closing minutes of the work oppose irregular rhythms in Orchestra I and regular rhythms in Orchestra III, with Orchestra II only joining in again at the final resolution of the piece in a single, rotating note.

Throughout the piece, quotations from music of the past of a ‘triple’ nature (in rhythm or instrumentation) are woven into the music in a more or less clandestine fashion. They are ‘bent’ in various ways so that their harmonic context relates to that of the ‘matrix chords’ (one for each orchestra) from which the pitch material of the whole piece is derived. Much of the rhythmic structure of the work also relates to the intervallic proportions of the matrix chords.

So, even from this sketch outline, the process of realisation embodied in the score of Triple Music II can be seen to be a process of unification too. Perhaps the most ambitious attempt at unification is between the rhythmically irregular and regular material whose stylistic implications go far beyond the purely rhythmic sphere. But most important of all, this score tries to fuse the spontaneity of improvisation with the premeditated complexity of composition. In it, compositional technique is always at the service of spontansous fantasy, thus playing the role of a kind of musical ‘paraphysics’ – the science of imaginary solutions.