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