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Shining Through Cracks
for oboe, piano and string quartet
(2013)

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I began this piece with the intention of writing a composition based on harmonic colors and instrumental textures. As a starting point, I first devised a series of chords that would be used throughout the piece both as a unifying feature and as a way of producing harmonic colors. Pitch classes from these chords could then be used to produce various ensemble textures. As they appear in the piece, the complete chords are mostly heard in the piano part, while selected notes from the chords (and sometimes even notes from outside of the chords) are used by the strings to make various textures. These string textures often use small chromatic clusters in freely melodic atmospheres of “controlled aleatory” — a technique in which each string player assumes his or her own tempo while the oboe and piano continue playing together in strict tempo. Creating this effect brought about certain notational and ensemble challenges, but the result is a cloudy string atmosphere that the oboe shines through while being supported by the piano’s chord series. Furthermore, the inversions and spacing of the piano chords are always changing, thus providing a variety of harmonic colors as well as structure and stability. Finally, the oboe, while usually playing melodies based on notes of those chords, sometimes adds microtonal pitch bends. These microtones let the oboe stand out as being distinctly different from the rest of the ensemble. One might even say they help it to “shine through” the various harmonic colors and string textures of the ensemble.

(duration ca. 9 minutes)

A performance of Shining Through Cracks can be heard on Youtube.