Horizontal Color Forms
Composed by Steve Kornicki

HORIZONTAL COLOR FORMS #15, 4 pieces for string quartet or string ensemble (2006)
(Total Time: c. 20 minutes)

The world premiere of Horizontal Color Forms #15, performed by the West End String Quartet, was January 7, 2007 at Ingomar United Methodist Church in Pittsburgh. The concert recording was broadcast in September 2007 on Pittsburgh's WQED Classical radio.

Download MP3s: Piece 1 | Piece 2 | Piece 3 | Piece 4
Performed by the West End String Quartet.

MP3 of full piece also available at cacophonous.org

Click here to learn more about the West String Quartet. [L-R: Sarah Washburn, violin; Jessica Meyer, violin; Steve Kornicki, Composer; Carlynn Savot, cello; Russell Wilson, viola)

Each of the HORIZONTAL COLOR FORMS (HCF) pieces deals with the synergetic combination of individual parts composed one at a time in a horizontal manner. These pieces all result from pre-determined structures and processes that are the result of improvisational composition using computer sequencing. The horizontal aspect refers to the process of composing each line completely through while being aware of the other parts, but allowing the parts to be free of each other – a process of “real time” composing and a certain amount of randomness. All of the pieces’ pitch structures are constructed from the simultaneous layering of 12-tone rows. These rows are chosen for their tonal/modal relationships and combinations and are stretched out over long durations through repetition of the individual tones (this repetition relating back to Arnold Schoenberg’s original concept of 12-tone theory). The resulting sound is of overlapping harmonies that can be heard as an apparently static surface of sound with a flux of textural elements and overlapping dynamic patterns beneath (musical effects at particular points: crescendos, rhythmic contrast, accents, instrument entrances, etc). The harmonic textures create the color aspect of the music and are a constant flow of transformation and change within this “stasis in motion”. The HCF compositional process produces a self-generating, horizontal harmonic flow that almost exclusively avoids vertical block harmonies in favor of gradually transforming tonal/modal lines and layers. These qualities create an atmospheric, aural landscape that can be compared to some 20th century minimal, early renaissance and baroque music, serving on an intense appreciation level or as an environmental listening experience. All of the works in this series reflect an interest in creating pure, absolute music that is derived from pre-determined musical systems within a large-scale structure based upon the combination and simultaneous layering of the 12-tone rows. Harmonic and rhythmic interplay is the focus of these pieces with melody, at times, being a subsequent result. The self-similarity and intended ambience of the music may also create a “suspended time frame” effect for the listener.

In HCF 15, there are four pieces with their own row combinations and processes. Canonic procedures determine the textural layering of pieces 1, 3 and 4 while piece 2 is derived from set, harmonic progressions.

***** Piece 1 *****

Row structures:
VIOLIN I – G, D, A, E, B, F#, C#, G#, D#, C, F, Bb
VIOLIN II – D, A, E, B, F#, C#, G#, Eb, Bb, G, C, F,
VIOLA – C, G, D, A, E, B, F#, C#, G#, F, Bb, Eb
CELLO – E, B, F#, C#, G#, Eb, Bb, F, C, A, D, G

Canonic procedure:
VIOLIN I – original part
VIOLIN II – canon at the perfect 4th below (measure 2)
VIOLA – unison with violin I at a perfect 5th below (measure 1)
CELLO – canon at the minor 10th below (measure 3)
*Dynamics for violin II and cello follow in strict canon of violin I and viola

The rhythmic structure consists of slow, sustained tones rising and falling in dynamics with the resulting sound being a sustained texture of self-similar chords producing an ever-expanding melodic line.

***** Piece 2 *****

Row structures:
VIOLIN I – D, Db, A, F, F#, B, Ab, Eb, G, E, C, Bb,
VIOLIN II – G, F#, E, D, A, F, Db, Bb, Eb, Ab, B, C,
VIOLA – A, F, G, Eb, B, C, E, Db, Bb, F#, D, Ab,
CELLO – Eb, Bb, F, C, G, D, F#, E, Ab, B, A, Db,

This piece deviates slightly from the general concept of the HCF series in that the pitch layering was precisely determined in advance. The rhythmic structure consists of constant, alternating octaves of 8th note triplet patterns played by violin I, viola and cello against violin II’s constant, alternating octaves of straight 8th note pattern to produce a medium-tempo hemiola effect. The pitches of the four overlapping rows were carefully chosen, and then vertically aligned to produce a pre-determined progression of 12 chords. The interplay of the pitches of the 4-note chords is sustained by altering the direction of the alternating octaves and also by octave displacements, thus creating continually shifting melodic and rhythmic patterns.

***** Piece 3 *****

Row structures:
VIOLIN 1 – A, B, E, D, G, C, F, Bb, Eb, G#, C#, F#
VIOLN II – G, A, D, C, F, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, F#, B, E
VIOLA – C, D, G, F, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, B, E, A,
CELLO – D, E, A, G, C, F, Bb, Eb, Ab, C#, F#,

Canonic procedure:

VIOLIN I – canon at the major 6th above (measure 5)
VIOLIN II – canon at the perfect 5th above (measure 3)
VIOLA – original part
CELLO – canon at the minor 7th below (measure 6)
*Dynamics and accents are imitated in strict canon by the violins and cello from the viola line.

Structurally, this piece consists of fast 16th note patterns played by the ensemble with the resulting sound being a process-generated counterpoint of overlapping tones and shifting accents.

***** Piece 4 *****

Row structures:
VIOLIN I – A, E, F#, B, G#, C#, Bb, Eb, C, F, D, G
VIOLIN II – G, D, E, A, F#, B, G#, C#, Bb, Eb, C, F,
VIOLA – F#, C#, Eb, G#, F, Bb, G, C, A, D, B, E
CELLO – B, F#, G#, C#, Bb, Eb, C, F, D, G, E, A

Canonic procedure:

VIOLIN I – canon at the major 2nd above (measure 4)
VIOLIN II – original part
VIOLA – canon at the minor 2nd below (measure 2)
CELLO – canon at the minor 6th below (measure 3)

The final piece of HCF 15 is slow and sustained music played at a dynamic level of mezzo forte with the strings playing non-vibrato throughout which results in a floating and static quality within a continually shifting harmonic field.

ANALYSIS: The system of music composition that I developed in late 2004/early 2005 for the HORIZONTAL COLOR FORMS series displays clear and concise processes that occur within the music. The pieces are about the processes and reveal an obvious interplay of harmonic motion through the layering of individual tones. Musical interest is created through texture and dynamics. Harmonic motion is given precedence in a manner that is actually heard and perceived by the listener because of the “harmony generating” nature of the compositional writing and process. The piece avoids tertian harmony in favor of a new harmonic motion created from the stretching out of the 12 tones over a long duration. The HCF series can provide a model for a new form of listening to music through the purity of the compositional processes and the auditory effects (i.e. the music is about the tones and harmonic motion).

The HCF concept is based on the mathematical principle of “self-similar objects”. A self-similar object is exactly or approximately similar to a part of itself, e.g., the whole has the same shape as one or more of the parts. Many objects in the real world, such as coastlines show the same statistical properties at many scales. The HCF musical processes can be seen as analogous to this principle because the pieces’ resulting textural structures consist of many instances of the same or similar material.

Music, scores, MP3, concepts and text © 2006 Steve Kornicki



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