Willem Boogman

composer


 

duration

16 minutes

scoring

fl asax tsax barsax hrn dtp 2tp 2trbne btrbne pf cb

commissioned by

Orkest De Volharding

dedicated to

Anthony Fiumara

premiere

April 17, 2007
Tilburg, De Link

Orkest De Volharding
Jussi Jaatinen - conductor

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Axis/Ashes

for spatially-positioned ensemble (2005-2006)


score sample


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program note | toelichting (NL)

I am fascinated by the way in which pure sound behaves in an acoustic space: its release from the source (the instrument or voice), carefully projected into the space, where it dies away.
I experience this phenomenon as a moment of peace and tranquillity containing the germ of all potential music. It is at the same time a moment of considerable excitement.

The sound’s short-lived manifestation in space can be extended by adding nearly-identical sounds to the original one before it has died out. When this happens simultaneously the sound mass itself is augmented; when it happens linearly – in succession – then the result is a series of pulses. This is rhythm in its most elementary form.

When these sound pulses are generated from various positions within the performance space, the sound will propagate in a certain direction.

One particular form of sound propagation is rotation. Rotation is the instigation of the formation of a musical constellation of sounds – at times just a single sound, but nevertheless a constellation. Sounds can rotate at different speeds and in different directions, producing a variety of simultaneous rotating layers.
Rotations can take up much or little space, and the form of their motion can vary in magnitude. This says something about how long a sound travels before it returns to its original spot.

Axis/Ashes consists mainly of rotations. But the music begins and ends with a ›flame‹ – in any case, this is what I have called the blaze of tones with which the piece begins –, referring to the ancient Greek belief that the centre of the cosmos and the earth is fire. That led to the choice of the title for the composition.

I employed a ›sieve‹ for the order of the pitches. (See Xenakis.) The available pool of chromatic pitches was ›sieved‹ into a scale of notes applicable to this particular piece. This scale was derived from melodic sequences found in Genieting III for recorder. The first sieve was often ›re-sieved‹ per voice and per section. Harmonies are likewise the result of this sieve technique.

Clouds and rotations have one thing in common with harmony: they involve the blending of sounds. In Axis/Ashes the instrumentalists are positioned spatially, surrounding the audience. This arrangement is essential to the realisation of the effect of the sound’s motion. But consequently the orchestra becomes fragmented and the individual sound characteristics of each individual instrument are clearly audible. Mixing the sound harmonically is no longer feasible, but rotation and cloudlike structuring mix the sounds in the way sugar dissolves when stirred into coffee, or like ink dilutes in boiling water.

In Axis/Ashes the music is likewise dissolved and dispersed. At times one will observe remnants of melodic, harmonic or rhythmic forms.
It goes without saying that this dispersion is not an end in itself. Something that no longer entirely exists can still become something complete again, but unlike what it was before – and we are there, more or less, to witness it.
That is my music.

(translation: Jonathan Reeder)


setup

The players are to stand around the perimeter of the performance space surrounding the audience, ideally on risers a level higher than the seated listeners. The double bass is placed in the middle of the space; the piano can, if desired, remain on stage. Diagonal lines connecting the corner players will give the radial placement: pf-cb-Btbn, fl-cb-Dtp, Asax-cb-Tsax. The conductor is to lead either from the stage (next to the piano), next to the double bass, or from any other practical location. Ideally the players should stand facing the centre of the performance space.
The spacing amongst the players will vary per venue and must be determined with care to ensure the optimal blending of the sound by means of the sound rotations.
Should placement surrounding the audience not be viable, an alternative set-up must be devised. One possibility is to arrange the players in a gentle arc, spacing them as far apart as possible. This stop-gap solution, however, is far from ideal and considerably hampers the effect of the music, in which case this handicap should be made known to the audience.

The audience is seated within the circle of players, either on chairs or on the ground with pillows. Ideally the audience should (a) be encouraged to sit wherever it pleases, or (b) with all seats facing the centre of the performance space. The most ideal set-ups are those which most closely approach a circular form, both for the audience and for the musicians.

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