Karst Music

Basic info


  • Instrumentation: electroacoustic
  • Year of composition: 2016
  • Duration: 8 1/2 minutes 

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About


The origins of Karst Music lie in a 2014 set of piano miniatures called Three Easy Pieces. After the premiere, the second and third miniatures were edited and retitled Two Contemplations. These were orchestrated in 2015 and performed under the title Songs Half Whispered. Also in 2015, the third miniature from the original set was used as the basis for a violin and piano duet.The metamorphosis of Three Easy Pieces continues with Karst Music for tape. As substrate for this composition, I selected a short fragment from a recording of the first Three Easy Pieces miniature. I then composed with this fragment in a digital audio workstation. To counter the easy freedom of the workstation, I deliberately used a limited range of basic audio processing functions. I altered the material only by: elongating or truncating, changing pitch, reversing, and adding reverb. I then sculpted the piece by taking differently modified versions of the material and layering them.The term karst describes subterranean landscapes that are formed by the dissolution of stone by water. In the resulting architectures, the flow of water and the solidity of rock shape the other. Many people will be familiar with the way rock formations in caves often appear fluid, as if frozen in the process of melting. Karst Music is similarly an invitation to journey within ‘sound objects’ that are simultaneously solid and liquid.

The piece begins with a rush of notes that emerge from emptiness and crescendo towards an accented chord. This chord trickles downwards, leading to a passage in the extreme low register. Starting soft and spacious, this passage builds in density, culminating in another rush towards a second accented chord. Again the music descends into the low register, but this time begins to build sooner and reaches a greater level of complexity. A third rush of notes leads to the loudest chord in the piece, which morphs into a pulsating texture. This texture is sustained for two minutes as it undergoes gradual harmonic change. Eventually the bass melts away and the energy subsides, leading to a moment of repose. A final low passage sinks into the emptiness from which the piece emerged.

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