A note to self on contingency in motet 3

My third motet, or (to alter a phrase by Klaas Coulembier):

Complexity1 as compound simplicity1; complexity2 as compound complexity1. Complexity2 can sometimes appear, contingently, as simplicity2.

So I’m part-way through writing the violin part at bars 16-17 of the third of my Mirror Motets. Here’s what it looks like (in all its unadorned glory):

Motet 3_emergent structure

I’ve just entered the rhythms and phrase structures and noticed an interesting emergent (unintended, contingent) simplicity that I wanted to relay.

Here’s the rhythmic sequence (the bolded bit is at play here):

1 1 1 1 1 1 5 1 1 1 4 1 1 1 1 1 6 1 1 3 1 1 1 1 7 1 2 1 1 1 1 1 7 3 1 1 1 1 6 1 1 1 4 1 1 1 5 1 1 4 1 1 1 1 6 1 3 1 1 1 7 2 1 1 6 1 1 1 3 1 1 1 5 1 1 4 1 1 5 1 3 1 6 2 0 7 1 1 3 1 1 1 6 1 4 1 1 5 0 4 1 6 1 3 0 7 0 2 1 1 1 7 0 3 1 1 6 0 4 1 5 0

Which is made up of two alternating processes.

  • The distribution of 1’s is according to its own alternating processes: a) 6 5 4 5 4 3 4 3 2 3 2 1 2 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0; b) 3 2 1 0 3 2 1 0 3 2 1 0 etc. This gives 6 3 5 2 4 1 5 0 4 3 3 2 4 etc.
  • The longer note values (from 2-7) are on a repetitive symmetrical loop: 5 4 6 3 7 2 7 3 6 4 (repeat)

The other rhythmic dimensions are the phrase lengths (bold are the relevant bits here):

Result 9 10 7 8 5 12 9 10 7 8 11 12 8 8 6 12
Basic Process 9 8 7 6 5 10 9 8 7 6 11 10 9 8 7 12
Add 0 2 0 2 0 2 0 2 0 2 0 2 0 1 0 1
Sub 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 1

The top (result) row defines the number of rhythmic units from rhythmic sequence that are assigned pitches before three of them are assigned rests (was two in the previous section).

The long-range process (the process continues about 4 times this length) is much more interesting than this of course, since the addition and subtraction rows begin to interact in a more complex manner.

On top of this is the fact that this is at the beginning of section 2. While this is in a sense a simplifying factor, since it means that the rhythm starts on beat 1 of bar 1 of the section, it is the case that I had no idea at which point in the phrase length process I would be when the new rhythmic sequence took off. Nor did I, while creating the phrase length process (which was designed at the beginning for the whole piece) have any idea what I was going to do in the new rhythmic sequence section, and vice versa. (If you tried, and I might do this in my dissertation to demonstrate) applying the phrase length filter as though it was one later, starting at 6… you would get a very different result, entirely lacking this emergent clarity).

The result, from a compositional point of view, is then quite contingent, and since I notice this contingent emergence of simplicity on the rhythmic/phrase level before all of the parameters are set (pitch, articulation, etc), I can use these parameters to either highlight or obscure this contingent emergence of simplicity. Likewise the other voices, which enter a little later in rhythmic-mensural canon with this can either further emphasise this simplicity, or they can undermine it in various way. This is represents the composer’s ability to interpret and respond to the results of processes as they emerge.

I would hope also, from a listener’s perspective, that the emergence of this simplicity would sound contingent and obscure. (The fact that the first of these will be taken over by a harmonics tremolo cuts against the unity of the three phrases, but the simplicity of the moment should nonetheless be evident).

This also indicates a basic anti-motivic approach in my counterpoint. ‘Motivic’ sounding moments are contingent and not essential.

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