Title: Learning Self-Modulation

Year: 2011

Instrumentation: Violin and Piano

Program note:

Learning Self-Modulation is a piece in which two musicians take us on a journey of transformation and shifting perspective. Rather than existing in opposition, the violin and piano are conceived as interlocking facets of the same identity, the shifting balance of their energies forming the ‘musical drama’ of this piece. Of course, their differences as instruments could hardly be greater – one so small the other so grand, not to mention playing techniques and sound qualities! Yet it is through their varied interaction, and their aspiration to unity, that the music flows through many states of being towards integration and repose. Despite the many changes of character and energy that we experience, the musical materials remain of the same substance, and at the harmonic level at least there is a global unity across the entire work, with hints of modality and tonality emerging seamlessly from the within the midst of chromaticism.

Poetically speaking, there is an evolution from a visceral, electrified ‘thunderous night’ into a calm, contemplative ‘place of light’, and each of the six movements takes a subtitle from the following poem, which charts this journey:

  1. Dancing through the thunderous night
  2. Azure flashes falling
  3. Through suspended mists of white
  4. Seeking realms forever bright
  5. We hear the timeless calling
  6. And here at last, we flow like light

The notion of transformation is also manifest physically in the progressive de-tuning of the violin during the first four movements. Eventually, in the last two movements, this slightly de-tuned violin is replaced by a fully transformed scordatura violin, strung with four de-tuned G-strings. Once this sounds, we find ourselves in a new world…

Learning Self-Modulation is dedicated to Carolin Widmann whose adventurous spirit has been an inspiration to me throughout the time of composition.

© Christian Mason 2011

      Learning Self Modulation