August 27, 2014
Here is one of my Contingency Etudes. Like the others, it features a randomly changing variable, in this case…
…register. My task was to create something meaningful out of randomly shifting registers (sets of 12-note octaves from low to high on the keyboard) determined by the Contingency Theme. This does not make melody impossible; it simply requires that one wait for a convenient register to randomly present itself before the melody can “lawfully” continue. The continuation of the melody is contingent upon register. Sometimes it has to restart because it was interrupted. As a whole, the goal of this piece is to ascend, as if out of the dust, and attain a level of energy from which emotion can be channeled freely. The process is gradual and requires some patience, since the melody cannot ascend but at the behest of chance; but when it is actualized, there is a sense of fulfillment, and the music lays down its head in peace.
The pentatonic scale (the black notes on the piano) is always intuitive. Whatever harmonies result from it, randomly sounding from the depths to the heights, complement one another, as if members of the same family. The intuitiveness and simplicity of the scale, in this case, make me think of plants, animals…life in general. The level of organization in biological life is extremely high; and yet its existence depends to a significant extent upon random forces–both those that shape conditions in the external world, and those that determine DNA during procreation. The interplay of “randomness” and “organization” in this way seem to be metaphorical for life.
Meanwhile, the piece may admit other interpretations. The randomly shifting chords are struck and left echoing like chimes. Yet out of that randomness, a melody emerges, something that would never happen if left to chance. There is Intelligent Design, causation by conscious intent, yet that working through or from within contingency.
In any case, there is the pentatonic scale, which is essentially the universal language of humankind.