01.15.09

7:40pm // From Four Papers consists of four movements, each “inspired” by a prolific scientist. The scientists I chose, Stephen Jay Gould, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Charles Darwin, and Carl Sagan, are unique in their ability to convey the wonders of science to the general public and have had a profound effect on my own appreciation of science. I have chosen fragments from the writings of each of these “scientific ambassadors”, hoping to capture, in just a few words, the general attitude of the given movement. The first movement, “… and with a bang …”, utilizes a modern compositional device known as aleatoricism. In its most extreme form aleatoric music, also known as chance music, allows the performers to improvise freely without any restraint imposed by a composer. Most aleatoric compositions, however, do have much of the music written-out with certain aspects, such as rhythm or order of pitch, determined at will by the performers. In this movement, I used aleatory technique to help portray the development of a single-celled organism growing into a more complex form.

The second movement, “…along cunning trajectories…”, features a theme that is distributed between the violins and viola. The theme uses ascending and descending gestures to create a wave-like contour, occasionally shaken by trills. There is little harmonic development in this short movement, although the theme shifts between E-flat Lydian and G Ionian. The third movement, “… by short and sure, though slow steps …”, is in a passacaglia form, with the seventeen-note theme being heard throughout the entire movement. The stability provided by the repeated theme allowed me freedom to continually develop the other material in a near through-composed manner. The many styles present in this movement lend themselves to the use of extended techniques, such as quasi-guitara strumming, pitch bends, and playing at the frog of the bow. One section in particular contains the passacaglia theme in all four parts, however, it is played in a different manner and overlaps at different rhythmic values. For the final movement, “… a rare kind of exhilaration …”, I created a number of different themes, some lyrical, and some with a rustic character. These are well defined by their respective accompaniment, never straying too far from the stone they are cast in. After the climax in D lydian, with some chromatic inflections, the themes are restated and blended together in a sort of flash-back as the music winds down. The use of double and triple-stops, as well as the quick shifts between arco and pizzicato, reflect the rustic and joyous nature of this movement.

– Jason McChristian

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MELOS MUSIC is an organization of composers who collaborate to promote, publish, and disseminate their music to as wide an audience as possible. Our common interests lie in a deep-rooted passion for music and collaboration with conductors and performers. Comprising our growing catalog are dozens of works spanning a wide variety of aesthetic styles and instrumentation. This catalogue is continually expanding as is this online resource. Please browse this website for more information, and feel free to contact us, directing any questions or comments via email or our online discussion forum.
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