Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Degree

Spring 2016

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Music

First Advisor

David K. Gompper

Abstract

“Traces of Wind” is a through-composed work in three movements: "Wind Chimes", "Incantation" and "Meditation". It is scored for a Western sinfonietta ensemble with the addition of a traditional Chinese instrument, guzheng — a 21-stringed traditional Chinese zither, one of the most common instruments of the prominent Chinese musical tradition. In this work, guzheng's role alternates between that of a soloist and of an orchestral instrument. As the piece develops across movements, guzheng takes on a progressively soloistic role: its solo sections become longer and more frequent, with the final movement, "Meditation" being completely a work for guzheng and orchestra. Guzheng's unique sound and obvious reference to the Orient informs the material and orchestration of the work. One hears frequent use of pentatonic scales and imitation of guzheng through Western instruments, such as strings (pizzicati) and harp. Each movement bears an imprint of Chinese music. The opening movement, "Wind Chimes", is based on the idea of repeating pitches, imitating the effect of wind chimes - an attribute of Chinese Feng Shui culture - tossing and bouncing against each other. We hear randomly struck pitches, yet each pitch repeats with a certain regularity. Much of the material of the first movement is derived from an unrelated endeavor: computer programming. I became involved in writing mobile applications for iPhone and Android devices. One year prior to starting my work on "Wind Chimes", I wrote a unique iPhone app, “iSonics”. This app was an attempt to enable performers of electroacoustic music to interact with music physically: a performer prerecords a set of short sounds and taps the empty screen to manipulate these sounds by stretching them in time, pitch-shifting them (by tapping the screen in various locations) and applying various filters by means of tilting the device. I used a guzheng to pre-record a set of 8 different sounds and then improvised a composition. iSonics provided the ability to react to the generated musical material in real time and to inform myself where on the screen to tap next in order to create a convincing musical line. Tapping to the left of the screen rendered the same sound object played slower and at a lower pitch, thus I was able to create harmonies. The first minute of the resultant electroacoustic work is my improvisation of one and the same sound object, while the first minute of "Wind Chimes" is that minute orchestrated for the ensemble, minus the microtones (which are present in the original improvisation). Thus, guzheng being the “pre-recorded” sound serves as the generator of the material for this movement: the original sound object created with guzheng is the foundation of "Wind Chimes". Much of the subsequent material of "Wind Chimes" is derived from the same process of ii instantiating the sound object in different registers and pitch level. Consequently, “striking” this sound object creates complex melodic content, most notably used in the climactic section of the movement (m. 197).

"Wind Chimes" flows directly into the second movement, “Incantation”, which is quite different in character, being more dark and dissonant. Spontaneous woodwind passages, which surface throughout, the movement are evocative of the style of singing one hears in a traditional Chinese opera.

In the "Meditation", I call for a pair of back-up violins, if available, to perform the opening harmonics section of the movement. The violins are to be retuned to specific microtonal tunings. I carefully selected these tunings by experimenting with various combinations of frequencies with my own violin. Although optional, using microtonal tuning for the opening of the "Meditation" adds a dimension of exoticism to the already Asian-influenced sound world of the complete work.

Public Abstract

“Traces of Wind” is a through-composed work in three movements: "Wind Chimes", "Incantation" and "Meditation". It is scored for a Western sinfonietta ensemble with the addition of a traditional Chinese instrument, guzheng — a 21-stringed traditional Chinese zither, one of the most common instruments of the prominent Chinese musical tradition. In this work, guzheng’s role alternates between that of a soloist and of an orchestral instrument. As the piece develops across movements, guzheng takes on a progressively soloistic role: its solo sections become longer and more frequent, with the final movement, "Meditation" being completely a work for guzheng and orchestra.

Guzheng’s unique sound and obvious reference to the Orient informs the material and orchestration and permeates each movement of the work. In “Wind Chimes”, one hears frequent use of pentatonic scales and imitation of Chinese wind chimes (hence the title of the first movement) by means of repeating pitches in the percussion parts. The orchestra complements guzheng by imitating its sound with Western instruments, such as strings (pizzicati) and harp.

Spontaneous woodwind passages in the second movement, “Incantation”, evoke the style of singing one hears in a traditional Chinese opera. In the last movement, “Meditation”, I call for a second pair violins. Although optional, using microtonal tuning for the opening of the "Meditation" enhances the atmospheric quality of the movement and adds a dimension of exoticism to the already Asian-influenced sound world of the complete work.

Keywords

publicabstract, chinese, contemporary, fractal, guzheng, iSonics, zither

Pages

viii, 122 pages

Copyright

Copyright 2016 Leonid Iogansen

Included in

Music Commons

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