This one’s like wall or walkway of bricks, some more recessed or irregular than others, generally but not always in even alternation. It could have easily been a (much) longer piece but decided not to be. The background drones give a false illusion of stasis while the chords of the gentler timbre sometimes add to that illusion, as if pretending they’ve been hiding, sounding quietly behind or beneath the chords of a more abrasive timbre and waiting for a quieter moment to be revealed and heard; this is also an illusion, as they are really alternating. Also somewhat like a chorale written by a dullard & missing a tune. I added  “illusory bricks” to the title of the piece after writing the preceding sentences.

Landform Variations (LFVs):

The Landform Variations are not sonic representations of specific landforms or topographical formations (i.e. mountains, caves, dunes, valleys, etc.). However, some attributes of natural terrains and the variety of life they support have conceptually influenced the form of these pieces. The concept of an ecotone was also of interest to me in writing these pieces. An ecotone is a transitional area between two (or more) environments that features attributes of both, sometimes with unusual overlaps in geology, fauna, and flora.

Different combinations of a relatively small set of natural conditions (mineral and soil composition, altitude, temperature, water/humidity, sunlight etc.) account for a huge variety of differences (as well as similarities) in landscapes and the fauna and flora they support. This can be seen on a subtle level on a walk in a mundane local park or on a magnificent scale in national parks. Where erosion has created awe inspiring formations (Grand Canyon, Carlsbad Caverns, Arches, etc. ) or conditions support clusters of highly unusual and specialized plant life (Sequoia, Joshua Tree, Seguaro, etc.), these natural features have combined in startling combinations.

In recent years, I have sometimes used the metaphor of topographical variation as a loose model for creating a variety of sonic textures within a musical work. Thinking about sound in this manner helps suggest how a piece may vary over time and what musical features it would support (in ways unobtrusive, brazen, or awkward). The Landform Variations were not written in traditional theme-and-variations form. They do not even have a theme; instead 38 of my favorite pentatonic (5-note) scales are juxtaposed. The proportions of consonance and dissonance in these scales suit one of my aesthetic goals – producing music which has few cultural and emotional reference points (that I’m aware of). Therefore these scales are (for the most part) not very reminiscent of more familiar scales (i.e. major, minor, chromatic, whole tone, blues, church modes, and popular/stereotyped “world music” scales and modes). Each “book” of variations highlights a different way of combining these scales based on shared attributes. The variations in Book 2 feature combinations of scales which share a specified degree from the tonic. In Variation 23, the shared degree from the tonic is a minor second.

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