This paper presents the compositional logic of my most recent piece, braneworlds, a 15-minute work for seven musicians, according to three basic concepts: musical space, polymorphic counterpoint, and ‘branes’, as inspired by the popular book Warped Passages by experimental physicist Lisa Randall. The idea of musical space is outlined, in which musical parameters—conceived broadly as variable characteristics of music—are taken as dimensions and each work may define its own set of basic dimensions. Musical identities or objects are formed, located at different points within this space. The idea of ‘polymorphic counterpoint’, in which larger-scale internally-elaborated musical structures, rather than lines or points, are superimposed, is drawn upon as a method for exploring in a particularly direct manner the different degrees of identity and difference between objects along the different dimensions. To give this a clear structure across time, the work draws upon the concept of ‘branes’—lower-dimensional ‘slices’ of higher-dimensional realities—from theoretical physics. This is metaphorically adopted in this work to mean musical structures that are fixed for the duration of the work on one or more parameters, but free with regard to others.
In braneworlds, four core parameters are chosen to construct the musical space: temporal division, register, pitch, and dynamic contour. Within these, four branes are constructed to which groups of instruments are assigned. These branes fix these instrumental groups with regard to two parameters, but allow them freedom with regard to the other parameters. The branes are also constructed in a complementary sense, such that different groups occupy different ‘ends’ of the musical space, denying the possibility of a number of textures, but also allowing for a wide exploration of identity and difference.
In the course of composing the work, a number of weaknesses and gaps in the compositional logic were uncovered, such as the problem of intermediate values, hierarchies of parameters, and the impact of the sectional form on identity relations. Nonetheless, the logic of the construction of braneworlds provides a relatively systematic way of exploring possible relations of identity and difference between musical objects within a constrained space.
Composing musical branes.
Directions of New Music (1).