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.

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