for string orchestra

duration ~ 6:12

Premiered on March 26, 2010 by the UBC Chamber String Ensemble | Eric Wilson, cond.

The score for Surface contains two different versions of the composition, the string orchestra is encouraged to perform both versions in the same program whenever this might be possible. Both versions are made up of the same exact musical material, but they differ in the order in which they present it. Each of the two large sections are reversed from one version to the other, and so although the listener hears the ‘same’ music in both versions, the order in which the music is presented changes. If performing the two versions on the same program, it is recommended that each version be treated as two different pieces and not be played consecutively. The goal is to produce different experiences of the same musical material in an effort to create an ‘impermanent large-scale form.’


The concept of impermanent large-scale form is largely based on theories of music cognition and the composer’s preoccupation with deemphasizing the value of form identification as a singularly correct way of accessing musical content. Surface is part of a series of pieces devoted to using impermanent large-scale form as part of the compositional design in an effort to promote different readings of the same musical content. Alternate orderings and different musical paths can stimulate underlying connections between different versions of the same piece. The ‘real’ music, its soul and core, will be the unchangeable traces that make up the entire collection of possible orderings. This approach to form is an attempt to abandon fixed form in order to allow for an internal depiction of music that is not dependant on the chronology (order) of the work. I believe this is already the way in which music lives inside our minds, and allowing it to be performed in multiple configurations will only enhance this type of impermanent existence. Some of the music and concepts explored in Surface come from Passenger, a string quartet that utilizes the same formal procedures of large-scale form reconfiguration and similar unison melodic ideas.


© Santa Ana 2021

Vancouver, BC | Ancestral Coast Salish territory of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (MUSQUEAM), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (SQUAMISH), and səlilwətaɬ (TSLEIL-WAUTUTH) Nations.