ROBERT AITKEN: Born in Kentville, Nova Scotia, August 28, 1939; now living in Toronto

In his Spiral, the composer invites us to experience the effects of the physical phenomenon in tone, having carefully laid out his instrumental forces to maximize this effect.

Spiral was commissioned by John Roberts and the CBC for the NAC Orchestra and its music director Mario Bernardi, who gave the first performance on October 1, 1975. On that occasion, the composer offered these words of explanation about his work:

“Spiral is essentially a work investigating the juxtaposition of block sonorities much as a plastic artist might work with different physical materials. The word ‘spiral’ indicates this relationship of matter moving around a fixed point, continuously receding from or approaching it, and the orchestra itself is laid out in sonority blocks to facilitate this process. For those interested in the formal aspects, it could be represented by ABACDE, with all of the material for the piece represented in the first section and the remainder being a working-out and development of it. The tonal material, and the piece is to a great extent tonal (or, more correctly, polytonal) is taken from two levels of the harmonic spectrum, of a note working from the ninth partial upwards. This accounts for the frequent use of microtones. The rhythms and formal relationships in both the large and minute sense are entirely based on permutations of 7 (i.e. 1436527 etc.)

“Now that the drier aspects are exposed, I should point out that the overall dramatic shape becomes apparent only at the end of the piece. The amplified instruments, which until this time have performed only non-instrumental sounds, finally reduce the other instruments to the same non-pitched growling as they take off, soaring over the dying noise of the orchestra.”
Robert Markow

© 2010, Robert Markow

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