Partita Traverse for Flute Solo, after J. S. Bach (Armstrong, Peter McKenzie)
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|Work Title||Partita Traverse for Flute Solo, after J. S. Bach|
|Composer||Armstrong, Peter McKenzie|
|Year/Date of Composition||1993, revised 2011|
|First Performance||1993 — New Haven, Neighborhood Music School Faculty Concert: Jonathan Baumgarten|
|Average Duration||6 minutes|
|Instrumentation||Flute solo (in the 3rd movement as a 'duo' with '2nd flute' pre-taped by the soloist)|
Discovered by Karl Straub in 1917, an 18C copyist's manuscript titled Partita solo pour la flute traversiere appears to be Sebastian Bach's solitary work for unaccompanied flute. Composed circa 1720, its movements represent with one exception the standard core of the Baroque solo suite. Its instrument as prescribed is, not the end-blown default flute of that day (a recorder), but the cross-blown then recently evolved from the fife of military use.
I have set about to refashion Bach's Partita by re-imagining impacts for the word "traversiere" (beyond its reference to the perpendicular breath flow identifying this instrument). They include: in the title, "traverse" repositioned to modify the composition per se; in movements 1 and 4, lateral sort, and imposition of a pitch axis; in movement 2, perpendicular twist incarnated as a pitch-vs-time parameter swap; and in movement 3, melody positing as its opposide (continuo). The piece is meant for performance immediately following its antecedent. The music was generated as follows:
The Allemande's beat-beamed quadruplets, each taken as intervallically fixed, were externally reordered via an ascending sort of their pitch spans. Each was then transposed to set one extreme pitch at E5 (a 10th above Middle C) with the group fanning upward or downward according to the melodic direction of its 2nd-4th members. The resulting sequence radiates in alternating direction from focal point to outer limit -- by chance, from the Allemande's initial to final tones.
Corrente measures 2-3 were input to an algorithm of mine that, given the X/Y dot-graph coordinates for a metered pitch sequence, rotates its pattern through half-circle, tracking the attack-order swaps thereby forced and upward-grading each impacted attack-time vector. Given a backward start without further intervention, this process evolved towards and ended with Bach's original measures, as though "bound and determined" to get these right. The movement is named after Prof. Whitney's little astronomical device, whose traversal so well models the algorithm.
Hearing Bach's Sarabande, I wish occasionally for more harmonic definition. As the wish remains frustrated I offer in revenge this alternative, a "continuo without melody". It is textured in fact as two melodies (one to be pre-taped), and maximizes periodicity of harmony and phrasing. The movement is best heard as accompanying the listener's silent(!) memory of the Sarabande itself, which it almost fits.
Each of the Bouree's beat-beamed note groups was taken to represent that group's mean pitch (reckoned as the sum-of-pitches divided by the number-of-notes). First sorted by metrical type, the groups were then reoriented to the focal E of movement 1 through a further nested sort: by mean pitch as higher or lower than the focus; by shrinking mean-to-focus interval. Thus this work's initial metaphor, radiation, was reversed. The music now instead backs into its point of origin -- in a spiralling, sputtering image less of doom than of laughter.