Catena

for fifteen instruments, 1986, duration: 23 minutes.

            CATENA, composed for the Penn Contemporary Players, was completed in February of 1986.  It is in one continuous movement and scored for 15 instruments.

            The piece was originally conceived as a number of musical gestures and ideas which would be presented in many different transformations; the variation being based on any of the available parameters (e.g. pitch, dynamic, timbre, instrumentation, articulation, density, rhythm, tempo, etc.).  And that continuity would result by contextually grouping or linking these ideas even though any one idea might appear many times with substantial distance and variation. 

            The title of the piece, CATENA, literally means chain; derived from the Latin.  That title conveys some of the conception of the structure of the piece.  What the title manages to capture, in the implication of interlocking units, is the relationships of relatively short sub-sections of music which range from a few beats to several measures.  These are then combined to form larger sections.

            A sectional division of CATENA may be diagrammed as follows:

introduction - A  B  C  A - closing

            The work opens with a chorale-like introduction which, as it proceeds, is occassionally overlaid with an ascending line which will become the basis of the A section.    The A section is characterized by a high intensity level with emphasis on fluidity of rhythmic pulse.  Contributing to this fluidity is a trio which maintains the unit pulse of quarter-note values but with subdivision of 3, 4, 5, or 6 parts.  The B section begins as a resolution to the intensity of the previous section but then builds its own intensity through the development of a new pitch sequence.  This melodic line begins with short three or four-note motives separated by rests, then becomes driving and constant before moving back to short motives.

            The C section has a slow unfolding of consonant triads in the lower register of the ensemble.  Against this the upper voices play contrasting figures.  Approximately half way through, the flute, oboe, clarinet, trumpet, and violin I play a seven-note figure; each instrument using a different unit value.  The A section returns with modifications and then yields to the chorale-like closing section.



The Penn Contemporary Players, Richard Wernick, conductor


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T   © Larry Nelson 2017