Chromatograph : for orchestra
by Alan Lawrence (2002)
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Library shelf no. Q 784.2/LAW 2 [Available for loan]
Chromatography is the scientific process by which mixtures are separated into their constituent parts. A mixture is passed through a substance by which its components are absorbed at different rates and therefore become separated. In the original form of the process the separated components of the mixture would show as bands of different colours (Greek chromos 'colour') denoting the varying amounts of each.
The process of chromatography suggested to me the idea of a piece in which an initial state of confusion is distilled, stage by stage, into its component elements which can then be used to rebuild the music into a more obviously coherent form. The piece falls into two sections the first of which starts with a sustained B above middle C which suggests a dividing line above which exists the chaotic state (the mixture, if you like). There follows a series of episodes in which successive musical elements descend 'below the line' at which point they become clearly identifiable and disappear from the confusion above (high strings, high wind and brass) thereby reducing the degree of chaos by stages. Each section of the orchestra has its own musical identity (rapid repetition of notes, running figures etc.) and once each of these has crossed the line and clearly defined itself, the second section (the process of rebuilding) commences. The various strands are now intertwined, gently at first but then in a more animated and combative manner. The various 'identities' which were initially the exclusive property of each instrumental section are now shared across the entire orchestra and eventually coalesce into a broad and concerted final episode which concludes by returning to the sustained B with which we started.
Instrumentation: Flute, alto flute (doubling ocarina), 2 oboes, 2 clarinets in B flat (2nd doubling bass clarinet), 2 bassoons, 2 horns in F, 2 trumpets in B flat, 2 trombones, timpani (doubling large suspended cymbal), percussion (2 players), strings (18.104.22.168.6 minimum).
Duration: 9 min.
Dedication note: Dedicated to Alan Edwards
Commission note: Commissioned by Queensland Orchestra.
First performance: by Queensland Orchestra — Feb 03. Brisbane City Hall
Performances of this work
Feb 03: Brisbane City Hall. Featuring Queensland Orchestra.
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