Proportionen

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Instrumentation: snare drum, organ
Duration: 4 minutes
First performance: Leander Franke (organ) and Johan Renman (snare drum), 8th March 2012, Göteborg

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Recording with Malte Fischer, organ and Timo Gerstner, snare drum:

The basic concept behind Proportionen is rather simple: A certain amount of time, i.e. the duration of the piece, is split into several parts by musical events. The listener’s attention is drawn onto these musical events and what effect their timing has. This is achieved by creating a continuous layer, which, being not interesting enough to function as a musical foreground, moves into the background very quickly. Thus musical space for the proportioning layer is opened. This layer consists of short musical events that succeed each other unpredictably in their timing.

Proportionen is the result of a series of studies carried out by visualising various examples of proportionings on paper and making them audible by very simple means afterwards. In these pre-studies the continuous layer was represented by the constant blowing into a microphone, the short musical events were a single pizzicato of a double bass. These were then put together on the computer, so that different proportionings could be tested and compared. In a first step I tried out various orders of lengths that were multiples of the shortest. Having decided on an order I then made the lengths more complex, e.g. relating to the Fibonacci numbers, the square roots of the first natural numbers or the first numbers of Pascal’s triangle.

I then wrote a music that is able to carry for a longer time by making the continuous layer more interesting. With its permanent sound the organ appeared to me as a very suitable instrument for the duration layer. It is separated into three voices. The voices begin on the same note, drive apart from each other slowly, converge again, drive apart, converge etc. until they reach the first note again in unison. The voices never break off and two voices never move at the same time. The harmonies being reached appear completely random – although they are very well planned.

In order to disturb the sacral aura that the organ almost inevitably creates, especially when playing a very quiet and gentle part like in this piece, I chose the snare drum and as a playing technique the rim-shot for the proportioning layer. The extreme contrast between these two sounds, the constant flowing of the organ versus the brutal noise of the drum, is not bound to any traditional music and makes it obvious that this piece is not part of any tradition but wants to stand alone, being only what it is, a musically interesting  experiment on the proportion­ing of time.