TIME, THICKENED

written for the University of Chicago New Music Ensemble
instrumentation: flute (picc), clarinet (b. cl.), harp, percussion, piano, violin, cello
duration: 12 minutes

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Program Notes:

“Time, as it were, thickens, takes on flesh, becomes artistically visible; likewise, space becomes changed and responsive to the movements of time, plot and history.”

Coined by Mikhail Bakhtin, chronotope (time-space) refers to the interconnectedness of space and time in narrative structure, in which the various manifestations of this dynamic relationship are a primary generic signifier. In short, both time and space are dynamic elements that are fundamentally connected. Though Bakhtin’s work primarily engaged with literature and language, this concept retains its potency in musical space-time, where the dynamic elements of pitch-space and meter interact. With TIME, THICKENED (2014), I sought to map these interactions onto a finite musical space where various modes of musical time-space invade and overlap with one another. This idea is microcosmically illustrated in the opening section in which seemingly unmeasured time abruptly gives way to its strict metrical opposite, all the while retaining a similar textural and harmonic surface, or musical space.

This work is in three parts, each of which investigates a different mode of chronotopic interaction. The first concerns the transformation of time from unmeasured to measured. The second separates the musical space through instrumental range and orchestration while destabilizing an otherwise straightforward meter, leading to the eventually independence of both time and space as the six instruments are separated into various duos whose temporal and melodic material grow more and more independent, creating distinct streams of time and space. The final coda signals a return to the ethereal world of the opening bars, where all seven musicians are once again united in slow, tolling pulses: thickening time, changing space.

Quotation from Mikhail Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays (1982)


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