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Title: Isolarion – Rituals of Resonance
Year: 2012 – 13
Instrumentation: Symphony Orchestra
The piece is named after a type of map. In his book “The Wild Places” (Granta, 2007), Robert Macfarlane explains that “Fifteenth-century map makers developed the concept of the ‘isolarion’: the type of map that describes specific areas in detail, but does not provide a clarifying overview of how these places are related to one another”. This description inspired certain aspects of the formal thinking in my piece. The three movements of Isolarion all have their origins in a single 11-note structural line or cantus firmus, yet they create quite different musical experiences, and despite the underlying unity of material there is little transition between the varied sound-worlds which they evoke. Like a pathway running through a forest or some other unknown territory, the ever present structural line enabled me to explore these musical landscapes without the fear of getting lost.
While Mvmt. I presents a detailed realisation of the horizontal and melodic possibilities of this material, Mvmts. II and III explore different aspects of its vertical and harmonic possibilities. The fluid continuity of the first movement is juxtaposed with the repetitive oscillations of the second. The dance-like energy which erupts midway through the second movement contrasts again with the contemplative chorale that defines Mvmt. III.
The word ‘isolarion’ also contains two others which were of importance to my conception of the piece. If we omit the first letter and the last three letters we are left with ‘[i]solar[ion]’, if we keep only the first and last pairs of letters we get ‘is[olari]on’. The significance of the ‘solar’ influence is in the general striving for a brightness and intensity of sonority and my understanding of sound as a force of energy akin to light. The word ‘ison’ refers to the drone note, which accompanies Byzantine chant. Finally, I gave the subtitle ‘Rituals of Resonance’ because the musical structure has a high degree of formality in its construction (like a ritual), but within these boundaries I searched for the richest resonances and textures my imagination could conceive.