Orchestral parts for Quelques Cercles are all printed and bound - a relief. First rehearsal with the conductor Michael Thomas is September 12th. Three rehearsals with the orchestra then performance at the Melbourne Recital Centre on Monday 19th September, 7:30pm. Fingers crossed! The piece takes its title and broad inspiration from a painting by Vassily Kandinsky. Kandinsky’s abstract painting, full of coloured circles against a dark background seemed to me like a snapshot of the cosmos or a nebulae full of rotating stars and planets. Circular and spiral ideas permeate the music and structures in Quelques Cercles. Here is Kandinsky's painting and a program note;
Quelques Cercles (several circles) takes its title and broad inspiration from a painting by Vassily Kandinsky. Kandinsky’s abstract painting, full of coloured circles against a dark background seemed to me like a snapshot of the cosmos or a nebulae full of rotating stars and planets. A postcard of the work had been sitting on my desk since I picked it up from a Kandinsky exhibition at the Pompidou Centre in 2009. In the early stages of this composition it became apparent that the music was developing with some parallels to Kandinsky’s circular images that shared my working space.
The orchestral work Quelques Cercles is underpinned by a passacaglia figure and this is repeated throughout the work in various forms and colourations – moving around a pitch cycle until it finally returns to the original pitch centre. The passacaglia figure, first heard in the cellos, also provides much of the melodic and motif material for the work. It is put through various modal and chromatic harmonic filtering to bring out different colours with its repetitions. The middle section of the piece is based on the first four notes of the passacaglia figure and this is elongated over a pedal-point texture – forming an inner circle within the larger circular structure.
The work also utilises pulse. This moves between the foreground and background musical textures and functions as an additional circular element overall. The pulse figures are based on quavers in three’s and two’s (derived from the 7/8, 5/8 section of the work). The 7/8, 5/8 pulses are at times superimposed within the crotchet based parts of the piece providing a sense of syncopation and overlapping metres – a little like the overlapping circles in Kandinsky’s painting.