Synthetic Spaces

 

Year of Composition: 2013

Instrumentation: fl, ob, cl, bsn, tpt, hn, b tbn, tuba, perc, pn, harp, str (4.2.2.1)

Duration: 7’30”

Premiere: December 7, 2013 at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, Evanston, Illinois; Northwestern University Contemporary Music Ensemble and Erik Leung, conductor

For this piece, I drew inspiration from the works of composers who use the pitches of the natural overtone series as source material—in particular, the works of Georg Friedrich Haas and Gerard Grisey. In Synthetic Spaces, I wanted to explore the dichotomy between the concepts of “natural” and “synthetic” sounds. Rather than using an authentic sound spectrum, I created a series of intervals vaguely reminiscent of the overtone series but using only pitches found on an equal-tempered keyboard. This pitch collection forms an eight-note scale, which is used throughout the piece.

Each performer plays a part that is rhythmically distinct from the others; I attempt to discover the point at which a clearly discernible flute line, for instance, becomes indistinguishable as part of a larger texture. On a larger level, as individuals, how do we express our unique selves in the “synthetic spaces” of online social networks? Are our distinct voices heard or do they simply become part of a mass of sound and noise?