Processes of creative patterning : a compositional approach

Constantinou, Stace (2015) Processes of creative patterning : a compositional approach. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


This thesis consists of three main bodies of work: 1) a portfolio of seven musical compositions, six of which are presented in notated score format, and one of which is an electroacoustic work; 2) the same portfolio of seven musical compositions presented as audio recordings; 3) a written critical commentary focussed on the development and deployment of processes of creative patterning within the seven portfolio compositions. The critical commentary provides the following: an insight into the musical context underpinning the development of the portfolio of works; the research questions posed, and how I have proceeded to answer them; detailed information about the compositional processes employed in each of the seven pieces. I include a survey of some of the ideas and practices of eight composers that have provided a musical context for my work: Olivier Messiaen, Jonathan Harvey, Iannis Xenakis, Denis Smalley, Trevor Wishart, Elliott Carter, Milton Babbitt, and Brian Ferneyhough. I situate my music within a Post-Tonal setting by utilising various elements, ideas, speculations and practices associated with compositional qualities that are not tonal in a traditional sense (Whittall, 2008, p.276), including for example: serial techniques, electroacoustic techniques, spectralism and microtonalism. The main objectives of this doctorate may be summarised by asking two questions: 1) is it possible to develop a novel style of music composition through the exploration and deployment of processes of creative patterning? 2) Is it possible to discover any general principles of composing with processes of creative patterning? In answering these two questions, the starting point was to define the nature of pattern, which occurs in three types: 1) numerical object patterns; 2) geometric patterns (which can be reduced to numbers); and 3) statistical self-similarity, or the pattern of formlessness (Stewart, I., 1998, p.11). Following from this study, it becomes possible to create an analogy between musical parameters and patterns by, for example, linking time with number. The patterns that are used creatively to form the musical material are as follows: the Golden ratio; a template of proportions; a short sequence of prime numbers; a Quadratic Recurrence Equation; an equation of the Poisson Distribution; a random data sample; and a Squaring Formula. A variety of forces have been employed in the seven compositions presented in this study including solo instrument, ensemble, electroacoustic composition, solo instrument and live electronics, and solo voice with tape. The seven compositions presented in the portfolio are: From the Book Of Songs for solo soprano and tape (c. 20 minutes); Pallimorphony for string quartet (c. 10 minutes); Trainofthoughts, electroacoustic composition (c. 30 minutes); On Sensations Of Cactus for solo piano and tape (c. 15 minutes); Trak-Ea for saxophone quartet (c. 8 minutes); Multiquadphonic for solo oboe and live-electronics (c. 8 minutes); Oryana Seven for ensemble (7 players, c. 6 minutes). The total duration of the seven compositions in the portfolio is approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes. Each of the seven chapters within this commentary focuses on one composition. Every chapter explores either a new creative patterning technique, or a new combination of creative patterning techniques, that has been used during the compositional process. Chapter 1 applies a prime number sequence to create a microtonal harmonic field in my song cycle From The Book Of Songs. Chapter 2 shows the development of three processes of creative patterning in my second string quartet Pallimorphony. Chapter 3 details how combining three different patterning processes creates the thirty-minute piece Trainofthoughts. Chapter 4 reveals how a random data sample and a five-note cell are applied as patterning processes in On Sensations Of Cactus, for solo piano and tape. Chapter 5 shows how the development of a comprehensive set of pre-compositional materials forms an important part in the process and application of creative patterning in Trak-Ea, for saxophone quartet. Chapter 6 explores how multiphonics, Pitch-Class sets, and a disruptive technique have been linked in Multiquadphonic, for solo oboe and live electronics. Chapter 7 details how a prime number sequence and the Fibonacci sequence are juxtaposed to determine the instrumentation, texture and harmonic movement within the ensemble piece Oryana Seven. The chapters are presented in such a way as to elucidate the development of my techniques and working methods. The order in which the compositions are shown in this commentary corresponds to the order in which each piece was begun, except for Multiquadphonic, which was started before Oryana Seven and completed afterwards. The chamber ensemble piece has been placed last as it uses larger instrumental forces than Multiquadphonic, and the pre-planning stage occurred after that of the oboe and live electronics work. In Oryana Seven my creative patterning techniques are applied to more instruments and therefore across a larger range of parameters than any other work. In the concluding chapter it is argued that a novel style of music composition has been achieved, through the exploration, development and use of processes of creative patterning. In addition, two general principles of creative patterning have emerged: 1) establishing a pattern in template form; 2) changing the template through replication, transformation and merger. Finally, the critical commentary speculates on possible future work, including a proposed utilisation of creative patterning techniques applied to Pitch-Class sets in such as way as to transform them into microtonal patterns.

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