Australian composer James Ledger

Arcs and Planes
2009
12 mins
3(III=picc+aflt).2.corA.2.bcl.2.cbn-4.3.3.1-timp.perc.(4): I=t.bells/3tgl/car spring/2bongos; II=xyl/3Tom-t/2roto-t/SD/sizzle cym(shared with Perc.3)/washboard; III=glspl/5crot/crash cym/sizzle cym/4susp.cym; IV=BD/4susp.cym (shared with Perc. 4)/maraca-hrp-strings

Premiere: 14, 15 May 2009
Perth Concert Hall, Western Australia
West Australian Symphony Orchestra
Paul Daniel, conductor

One of the earliest thoughts about this piece was the concept of bending notes, and the pitches that lie in between our equally tempered scale. I had considered writing a piece in a pure tuning system known as just intonation. Whilst I eventually abandoned this idea, I stuck with the concept of bending notes and these became the ‘arcs’ in the title. The ‘planes’ came from the idea of sustaining notes or many repeated notes without deviation for long periods of time. The role of the arcs grew to include a melodic line that bends or curves either up or down, but not both. Similarly, a plane could be a slow moving melodic line that moved only by small deviations.
I would be the first to point out that in a piece of music, a pitch can move either up or down or it can stay the same. However, by focussing on these two ideas, the construction of the piece, for me, took a different tack from usual and musical ideas emerged in unexpected ways.
The two simple geometric shapes in the title of Arcs and Planes form the constructional technique for the whole piece. During the writing, I drew large diagonal lines across blank manuscript, (admittedly, the manuscript was a digital manifestation of the real thing). I then placed notes on the staves as close as I could to these lines. This method therefore also determined some of the orchestration. As lines moved from, say, the low brass up to the high woodwinds, the arc would be distributed through these instruments in score order. I also drew straight vertical lines all the way down the manuscript at certain points and these became short blaring chords, or planes, in the orchestra.

Arcs and Planes was commissioned by the West Australian Symphony Orchestra as part of the Australia LNG Composer-In-Residence programme 2007-2009.




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