Assignment 4


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I began this piece by looking for a sound sample featuring microtones. In rehearsals for Stanford Chamber Chorale, our director talks a lot about being on the high or low end of a note. Before these rehearsals I hadn’t thought much about these microtonalities, but I was intrigued after working so hard to bend the pitch by a few wavelengths to modify the sound in just the right way. I was initially looking for a raga or something similar, but happened upon the sample which I ended up using in my piece, a 1 minute sample of a piece by Foster Turcott called “Dissonance to Unison.” The piece goes to and from unison, with notes wavering in the middle of a half step, with the beats generated by close, but not identical, wavelengths apparent. The sound starts a half step apart and joins in unison (part 1), then goes back apart a half step (part 2), and finally back to unison (part 3). I would later realize that this dissonant return to unison is very similar in style to haiku, where seemingly contrasting words eventually find a common ground.

With the music to ground my piece, I began looking for the right words for the piece. Since the piece is a haiku of sorts I decided to use a haiku by Basho. I looked through a few before I found one that seemed similar in theme to that of the music. The idea of the whore and the monk becoming one, then the contrast of that image to the moon and the field, finally combining to form one beautiful, simple image spoke to me.

The last thing to come in the process was the visual aspect. I knew that, considering the modern style of sound and the simple format of the poem, I would have to make my visuals very minimalistic and clean while still displaying a transition from dissonance to unison. After playing around with a few concepts I decided upon circles of opposite colors slowly coming together to form one circle of the same color, then rising up while a green rounded box faded in, and finally changing color to a pale, moon-like yellow as the text appears. The image starts off relating more to the sound as the words have not appeared yet, but when the words do appear it forces the listener to ponder what it is they have seen before, and see the connections between all forms of media.

Ultimately I am very proud of this piece. It was not the hardest to do and definitely one of the simplest, but it speaks to me in a more profound way than the other pieces I have composed.