Particle tracks : for string quartet
by Natalie Williams (2002)
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Particle Tracks are the paths in space left by subatomic matter
after an explosion. They are created by physicists using
"particle accelerators" in which
two or more particles are charged, accelerated and smashed together to ascertain the physical properties of matter. When particles are sped up, collide
and explode, the resulting paths of matter (tracks) enable physicists to examine the nature of what lies beneath the atom. It is a process to find the substructures
of the atom and ascertain the fundamental building blocks of life.
There are many types of paths created in a particle explosion, each with a recognised" "collision code" such as Elastic Scatter, Inelastic, Double Fluorescence
and Pair Production. Fast travelling particles usually leave straight tracks, whilst slower ones have short, tight spirals. I have structured the quartet according to
the physical shape of an explosion and used various track types to define the movements.
The first movement, 'Spin Contribution', details a spiral path, slower and with less direction than a faster track. The path winds around in an ever tightening circle,
reflected in the music by waves of rushing textures spiralling around a central pitch. The second, 'Subatomic', depicts a faster track, with a straight, unchanging
path. It begins with a constant rhythmic pulse but gradually speeds up and shoots away from the initial pitch material. 'Ionisation' is the thematic nucleus of
the piece, just as an explosion has a central point. The fourth movement, 'Elastic Scatter' (like the 2nd movement) represents a straight, fast track. Each of the
players are treated as separate particles and fly through each other's voices while emanating from the same material. 'Parity' depicts a spiral path at the outskirts of
the explosion. The melody is slowed to half it's original value and contains a central coda section in which the tension established in the opening movement is
released in a gradual fading of texture and harmony, to leave only a single pitch.
Through each of the movements, the individual players are themselves treated as separate paths, weaving in and out according to a particular track type. The
musical material mimics Particle Tracks in a series of snapshots, or musical interpretations, of the directional energy associated with each idea. On a larger
conceptual level, the work is also my response to the vitality and energy in everyday living, knowing that in every atom that comprises our bodies and the
world we live in, exists a constant state of movement and energy.
Instrumentation: 2 violins, viola, cello.
Duration: 25 min.
Difficulty: Advanced — AMEB: grade 7 +.
Contents note: Spin contribution -- Subatomic -- Ionisation -- Elastic scatter -- Parity.
Dedication note: Dedicated to Zephyr Quartet
Written for: Zephyr Quartet
First performance: by Zephyr Quartet — 6 Apr 02. The Garage, Musica Viva Menage Concert, Adelaide
Performances of this work
6 Apr 02: The Garage, Musica Viva Menage Concert, Adelaide. Featuring Zephyr Quartet.
26 Nov 00: St. John's Anglican Church, Halifax St, Adelaide. Featuring Zephyr Quartet.
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