Ground Zero II


'Ground Zero II' is the second piece I've written reflecting on the Syrian civil war; two years after 'Ground Zero' the picture had changed significantly, with the emergence of ISIS and the refugee crisis as prominent global topics.

Unlike 'Ground Zero', the electronic element in this piece is not live but a fixed tape part. The piece is constructed using harmony and melodic writing derived from the spectral analysis of a bass oboe multiphonic. Pitch classes used are almost entirely from the spectrum, with all microtonal pitches appearing in the tape part only as we simply hadn't worked out enough microtone fingerings to use them freely in the bass oboe! The opening melody consists of an ascending minor third (E to G) and a descending major third (G to Eb), of course leaving a semitone (Eb back to E) to complete the interval vector of this motif. The motif is developed by expanding it outwards to gradually include the rest of the pitch classes derived from the multiphonic's spectrum, using similar shapes and restricting horizontal intervals entirely to the three mentioned.

The piece plays with perspectives of scale; the opening sections focus entirely on development using the mode derived from the multiphonic's spectrum; the middle section features a multiphonic chorale, 'zooming out' of the one multiphonic and including pitch classes from outside its spectrum, though the horizontal intervallic consistency, itself still derived from the prominent pitch classes of the original multiphonic's spectrum, is maintained. The perspectives are linked by playing a melody derived from the opening motif above these same multiphonics sounding in the tape part. There is also a small element of further 'zooming in' on the three original pitches of the motif and melody, focusing on their spectra, whose prominent pitch classes also occur in the generative multiphonic spectrum.

This piece required research to be carried out, which I did with the help of oboist Michael Sluman. Together, we recorded a whole range of the bass oboe's sounds, all of which I then spectrally analysed in what I believe is the first such research to be carried out on the bass oboe. You can find much of the collected data here.

Studio recording of my piece for Bass Oboe and Electronics, 'Ground Zero II'.

Bass Oboe - Nicola Hands

Audio references for the multiphonics used in 'Ground Zero II':