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Self Portrait (2002)
For Seven Musicians
This score for seven musicians is a staging post between the Quatuor de Timbres (2001) and the Six Concertos (2003-5). In this music the continuo trio developed for BBC commissions Conversations in Colour and Schizophonia joins the quartet of woodwind, brass, strings and percussion of Quatuor to make a seven-layer ensemble. This seven-layer approach to composing and organising timbre has become the compositional heart of each of the Six Concertos. Many of the technical features that have made the realization of the Concerto series possible had their inception in this work.

The music was composed in ‘blocks’ or ‘panels’. The latter terminology makes reference to the music of Franco Donatoni whose scores sometimes demonstrate a very particular approach to open form. In Self-Portrait, as with a number of other compositions devised in collaboration with the Lisp-based computer environment Symbolic Composer, the composition is imagined in sections that are not in linear sequence but exist as autonomous ‘blocks’ having the potential for being placed in different orders, or indeed repeated, in part or complete. The music, however, should play continuously. Whereas Donatoni would have made a final decision about the sequence of his ‘panels’ before writing his full-score, the new technologies of scorewriting and MIDI sequencing of pitch and rhythm data make it possible now for players to receive a work ‘in open form’ and make their own decisions.

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Nigel Morgan, Prudential Buildings, 55 Westgate, Wakefield, West Yorkshire, WF1 1BW, United Kingdom Tel: 01924 383017 e-mail: tonalitysystems@mac.com

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