Earth Spirits

Earth Spirits for violin and viola

Earth Spirits is another composition in a series that experiments with counterpoint in an aleatoric work. My own compositional training always stressed that the composer needed to specify the exact action necessary to perform a work: the precise pitch, rhythm, articulation, etc. needed at any point of the piece. As I grew older and wiser, I found I was attracted to many works that used chance elements. Why (and how) did these pieces work? Why, despite the many variations these aleatoric options may create, did the piece always maintain a common character? I set out to explore this interesting world by combining it with my own love for contrapuntal textures.

Counterpoint is taught by giving students a line of music and asking them to write a second line against it. The teacher is then asked to discuss the merit of the various solutions given, pointing out what makes one version better than another. One comes to realize that the answer is somewhat subjective. One exercise might have a more pleasing contour, but another may produce nicer harmonies or use rhythm more effectively. Earth Spirits explores the multiple possibilities of combining two lines of music. Each player is given three movements that could be played in any order. Any of the violin's movements will work with any of the viola's to create a duet with a distinct rhythmic counterpoint, harmonies, and mood. Each performance is slightly different and offers the listener a unique performance experience.

Performance: Dian D’Avanzo, violin and Nancy Buck, viola, Katzin Concert Hall, Arizona State University, September 26, 2021