Ring out the changes : chamber orchestra
by Jennifer Fowler (1978)
Ring Out the Changes is scored for bells (2 players) and strings. The notes of the bell part are divided between the two players: each has a whole tone scale. The exploration of 3 or 4 notes of the whole tone scale at a time, provides the material of the piece.
Between the bells this results in a dialogue, the simple drama of contrasting portions of the two scales being alternated. The body of strings provides an amplification of the bell dialogue. It acts as a "resonating chamber" for the bell sounds. It also uses the same material, but extends it - in range, in subtlety and in simultaneity.
The proportions of the piece are also based on strictly limited material. All the divisions into sections, large or small, down to every rhythm in the piece, are inter-related. A feature of the piece is its use of crescendos - from long-drawn-out slow crescendos to small pulses. These are all related in the same proportions. The contrary overlapping of crescendos means constant regeneration. There are few moments of stillness in the piece, and only one of silence. This silence marks the division into the two main sections of the piece. The second section is on a smaller scale- the pulses and rhythms are in diminution.
In the title, the word "changes" refers, among other equally relevant meanings of the word, to the traditions of bell-ringing, whereby in a limited number of notes, certain patterns are explored fairly exhaustively, through the possible permutations. In this piece, the material of both pitch and rhythm is also fairly simple and limited - every note is related to every other note in similar patterns. However, the possibilities allowed are large enough to lead to vast multiples of choice. The exploration is therefore not at all exhaustive, but strictly selected. Only a few of the "changes" are used in each area of choice. The piece is a shaped selection of the possibilities inherent in the basic material.
Instrumentation: 9+ 1st violins, 7+ 2nd violins, 6+ violas, 6 cellos, 3 double basses, bells (2 players).
Duration: 20 min.
Performances of this work
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