Refractions II

For symphonic orchestra. Sketched at SoundMine 2022, a composition internship in collaboration with HERMESensemble and Center Henri Pousseur. In the beautiful surroundings of Grand Commandery Alden Biesen, a group of young composers receives expert coaching for a week to fully develop their compositional qualities.

Refraction is the bending of curing of light or sound when it encounters a medium. For more information about the phenomenon, see this post about the first musical model, Refractions I!

While in Refractions I, the slowing down of a beam of light when it encounters a medium is modelled by changing the rhythms (but leaving the underlying tempo intact!), in Refractions II, the tempo changes. The medium is now a compelling and colourful orchestration and although the tempo changes, the original pulse is always maintained throughout in the percussion, resulting in very confusing and conflicting polymeters. See Model 2 below.

Model 2: used in Refractions II

Scoring
2 Flutes (2nd also piccolo)
2 Oboes
2 Clarinets in B flat (2nd also Bass Clarinet)
2 Bassoons

4 Horns
3 Trumpets (in C)
3 Trombones
Tuba

Timpani
Two percussionist

Strings

Score sample

Refractions I

For vibraphone and piano. Written at SoundMine 2022, a composition internship in collaboration with HERMESensemble and Center Henri Pousseur. In the beautiful surroundings of Grand Commandery Alden Biesen, a group of young composers receives expert coaching for a week to fully develop their compositional qualities.

Refraction is the turning or bending of a light or sound wave when it passes from one medium to another. Most people are familiar with refraction: a common example is putting a straight stick under water, which seems curved when observed. For the source, i.e. the stick, the path is straight, although for the observer, the path is curved. This bending is a result of the changing speed of the wave/particle, which is dependent on the difference in density of the mediums. When the wave hits the medium at an angle, its course changes, thus we speak of refraction.

Refractions I explores a special case of refraction: one where a wave meets the medium at a right angle. Thus the speed of the wave changes, but not the direction. This is modelled musically by setting a fixed and steady pulse, which is manipulated when one of the performers encounters a colourful symmetric chord. An interplay of various polymeters is the result! The Model 1 below.

Model 1: used in Refractions I

At the moment, I am also working on Refractions II, an orchestral piece which explores the same concept, but in an entirely different way.

Refraction can be observed when the beam of light hits the medium at an angle. When the angle is straight, only the speed of the beam changes.