Mar violento

Mar violento

for wind orchestra

dur. ca. 11'

Honorable mention, Banda Sinfónica Portuguesa Prize for Composition.

Premiered March 18, 2018

Sala Suggia, Casa da Música, Porto

Banda Sinfónica Portuguesa, cond. Pedro Neves

Com­plex tex­tures com­pel par­tic­u­lar modes of lis­ten­ing. Sev­er­al lines, redun­dant amongst them­selves in their mor­phol­o­gy, divert our atten­tion to their inter­re­la­tions instead. A homo­phon­ic chorale, for exam­ple, is per­ceived as a block, despite the inter­nal coher­ence and melod­ic inde­pen­dence of its voic­es. Har­mo­ny is what emerges instead as per­cep­tu­al­ly salient — that is, the total sum of the voic­es’ inter­val­ic rela­tion­ships, not their melod­ic contour.

The same hap­pens with the exact oppo­site. The absence of any kind of mor­pho­log­i­cal redun­dan­cy — when all lines are too dif­fer­ent amongst them­selves — also pro­motes a gen­er­al and tex­tur­al lis­ten­ing. In this case, the per­cep­tion of voic­es — if their extreme inter­nal vari­ety even allows them to be per­ceived as such, that is — gives way to anoth­er kind of glob­al hear­ing: one that is much more sen­si­tive to tim­bre and dynam­ics instead. Out­lines sharp­en in relief, sug­gest­ing an almost pic­to­r­i­al game between fig­ure and ground.

These two extremes delin­eate a con­tin­u­um between tex­tures of lines which are high­ly redun­dant and lines which are high­ly dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed. This piece exploits and explores that con­tin­u­um, gen­er­at­ing and con­trol­ling com­plex tex­tures built out of the ver­ti­cal and hor­i­zon­tal accu­mu­la­tion of son­ic events.

In this imag­i­nary con­tin­u­um between redun­dan­cy and sin­gu­lar­i­ty, heteropho­ny would occu­py some­thing of a mid­dle ground. Het­eropho­ny was always a par­tic­u­lar­ly dear com­po­si­tion­al resource to Luciano Berio — one he would explore through­out his career. His orches­tral works expand on het­eropho­ny as he received it from Debussy and Mahler. After reach­ing its mature expres­sion in the 80s, in pieces such as Requies or For­mazioni, it becomes a sta­ple of his writ­ing until the end of his life. While also con­ceiv­ing of mate­r­i­al as point and mass, this writ­ing retains a clos­er con­netion to tra­di­tion­al orchestration.

This piece also joins the long and sto­ried suc­ces­sion of works evok­ing the sea. Its incred­i­ble force and unfath­omable dimen­sion — era muito difí­cil frente a mim/​compreender esse ter­ritório abso­lu­to”, wrote José Tolenti­no Men­donça – has insti­gat­ed com­posers in the direc­tion of sys­tem­at­ic metaphors such as bar­ca­role rhythms that mime its waves, bril­liant fifth-based har­monies that sug­gest the sil­ver sheen of its sur­face, or hero­ic tut­tis that evoke the mar­itime epics of lit­er­a­ture. Many of these sys­tem­at­ic metaphors are still employed today. How­ev­er, a very observ­able shift in the con­ven­tions of its depic­tion has tak­en place. What seems to beguile both the com­posers of today and as well as those from before, when fac­ing the sea, is its awe-inspir­ing pres­ence, well beyond our human scale. The ver­ti­cal, hero­ic tut­tis have been hol­lowed out, in detri­ment of the depths of the orches­tral reg­is­ter. Like­wise, dense har­monies of drag­ging under­cur­rents have since replaced that sur­face sheen. It is as if we have been swal­lowed by the sea, no longer capa­ble of nav­i­gat­ing its surface.