Horizontal Color Forms

Notes and concepts by Steve Kornicki

Each of the HORIZONTAL COLOR FORMS (HCF) pieces deals with the synergetic combination of individual parts composed one at a time in a horizontal manner. These pieces all result from pre-determined structures and processes that are the result of improvisational composition using computer sequencing. The horizontal aspect refers to the process of composing each line completely through while being aware of the other parts, but allowing the parts to be free of each other – a process of “real time” composing and a certain amount of randomness. All of the pieces’ initial pitch structures consist of 12-tone rows (the arrangement of the twelve notes of the chromatic scale in a particular order). These rows are chosen for their tonal relations and combinations and are stretched out over long durations through repetition of the individual tones (this repetition relating back to Arnold Schoenberg’s original concept of 12-tone theory).

The resulting sound is of overlapping harmonic textures that can be heard as an apparently static surface of sound with a flux of textural elements and overlapping dynamic patterns beneath (musical effects at particular points: crescendos, rhythmic contrast, accents, instrument entrances, etc). These harmonic textures create the color aspect of the music and are a constant flow of transformation and change within this “stasis in motion”. These qualities give the pieces an ambient sound that can be compared to some 20th century minimal, early renaissance and baroque music, serving on an intense appreciation level or as an environmental experience. The self-similarity and ambience of the music may also create a “suspended time frame” effect for the listener.

The following example is from the program notes for Horizontal Color Forms #5 and demonstrates a process of pitch construction that is applied to the HCF series.

Example: Horizontal Color Forms #5, for 6 instrumental or vocal lines
In HCF #5, strict canon (one part exactly imitated by another part) of the pitch material is utilized for lines one/two and lines three/four for the duration of the piece: line two begins 4 measures after line one (line two playing an octave lower than line one) and line four begins 3 measures after line three. HCF 5’s row structures use a cycle of 4ths using different starting notes. Below are the pitch structures for the primary four parts:

Lilne 1 = F# B E A D G C F Bb Eb Ab Db – Ab Eb Bb F C G D A E B F#

Line 3 = E A D G C F Bb Eb Ab Db Gb Cb - Gb Db Ab Eb Bb F C G D A E

Line 5 = B E A D G C F Bb Eb Ab Db Gb - Db Ab Eb Bb F C G D A E B

Line 6 = C# F# B E A D G C F Bb Eb Ab – Eb Bb F C G D A E B F# C#

The parts flow through each of the pitches of the 12-tone row with a varying number of repeats for each tone. Once reaching the 12th pitch, the parts move in a retrograde or reverse motion returning to the previous 11th tone and ending at the starting note, as illustrated above, thus creating a closed loop, “23-tone row” for the global structure. Each tone is 3 ½ beats in duration at a tempo of quarter note = 100-104. There are primarily 2-4 beats of rests between each of the tones and dynamics consists of a rise-peak-fall pattern throughout that is similar to a wave buildup and collapse. These periodic and precise rhythms, together with the interplay of the wave-like dynamics create a textural effect of contrapuntal interplay between the tones.

Listen to a MIDI version of HCF #5 for flute, clarinet, violin, viola, 2 cellos and percussion (5MB MP3)

The system of music composition that I developed in late 2004/early 2005 for the HORIZONTAL COLOR FORMS series displays clear and concise processes that occur within the music. The pieces are about the processes and reveal an obvious interplay of harmonic motion through the layering of individual tones. Musical interest is created through texture and dynamics. Harmonic motion is given precedence in a manner that is actually heard and perceived by the listener because of the “harmony generating” nature of the compositional writing and process. The pieces avoid tertian harmony in favor of a new harmonic motion created from the stretching out of the 12 tones over a long duration. The HCF series can provide a model for a new form of listening to music through the purity of the compositional processes and the auditory effects (i.e. the music is about the tones and harmonic motion).

Above text notarized in Pennsylvania – 5/23/05


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