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Splinter Group : duo

by Peter McNamara (2022)

Splinter Group


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Splinter Group / Peter McNamara.

Library shelf no. 785.5612/MCN 1 [Available for loan]

Work Overview

The premise of conjoining two instruments 'splintered' from their traditional musical genres underpins the five-minute work Splinter Group. This includes a bass woodwind instrument from the 'classical' realm (either a bassoon or bass clarinet) and drum kit from the 'contemporary popular' (also possible to perform as a multi-percussion part).

During the work's first section, the pitch material of the bass woodwind instrument consists of short, rapid motivic gestures varied through modal transformations by shifting between the four 'minor' modes (Dorian, Aeolian, Phrygian and Locrian) using the pitch classes D, Eb and F as fundamentals. The character of the drum kit part meanwhile is especially 'jerky', often falling intentionally short of a consistent groove through truncation and metric changes. This combined with the often abrupt and abrasive articulation of the bass woodwind instrument often materialises in a rhythmic collection of sounds where the pitch content becomes increasingly less important.

The disintegration of mode and pitch reaches its pinnacle in the work's more ambient middle section, where extended techniques such as rhythmically notated vibrato using the three fundamental pitch classes D, Eb and F are transitioned into multiphonics on the bass woodwind instrument. This is supported by techniques such as harmonic cymbal scrapes and wire brushing on drum and cymbal surfaces, with occasional short bursts of rhythmic material reminiscent of the first section in the drum kit.

After a brief solo in the bass woodwind instrument, a return to the initial material punctuates the work's final section. The modal motivic gestures of the opening are reworked and 'splintered' into smaller fragments, exaggerated by an increasingly more agile and active drum kit part.

Work Details

Year: 2022

Instrumentation: Bassoon or bass clarinet and drum kit (preferred) or multi-percussion.

Duration: 5 min.

Difficulty: Advanced — Includes shifting metres, multiphonics and cross-rhythms. Some advanced HSC students may have the ability to perform this work.

The composer notes the following styles, genres, influences, etc in relation to this work:
Modal, rhythmically driven avant-garde.


Splinter Group

Performances of this work

2022: The Old St Thomas Chapel, Narellan, NSW

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