Harrison, Bryn (2006) four cycles for large ensemble (15 players). [Composition]

four cycles, for large ensemble (15 players), was composed during participation in the London Sinfonietta’s Blue Touch Paper
scheme. Written for and premiered by the London Sinfonietta, it was subsequently broadcast on BBC Radio 3, Hear and Now.

This work is empirical in nature, being written over a four-year period of experimentation with members of the London
Sinfonietta under the guidance of mentor Simon Holt. The research questions posed manifest themselves in the work’s largely
didactic approach, which is presented as an ongoing investigation into the study of musical time – exploring different levels of
rhythmic activity and different rates of harmonic change. Part of the investigation was to examine what happens when the level
of rhythmic activity is increased but the rates of harmonic change slowed down. To investigate these concerns, systematic
processes were devised, which governed both the length of the pitch cycles and the rates of rhythmic activity within an
underlying grid structure. The work is essentially monodic in conception, treating the whole ensemble as one large instrument
and exploring the ways in which harmonic resonance, for example, might be used to prolong pitches, merge harmonies or
create aggregate textural results.

The work is presented as four movements, which each adopt a different organisational principle to a single melodic trajectory.
The second movement draws on the writings and phenomenological experiments into Shepard tones by American composer
James Tenney. Similarly, in this piece, the movement emerges from plotting pitches against a single upward trajectory. The grid
structure adopted in this movement derives from research into the work of British painter Bridget Riley and the employment of
curvilinear grids. As the title suggests, the piece makes extensive use of circular structures, which operate on both a micro and
macro level throughout the four movements.

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