Seven/Eleven (2004)

for Piano Duet (4 Hands).

Duration: 14 mins 22 secs.

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MIDI recording given for perusal purposes.

Programme Note

When I wrote ‘7-11’ I was in my mid 20’s and had recently discovered the
music of Philip Glass, Steve Reich and John Adams, the so-called
minimalist composers. I was immediately drawn to their music and it
helped me find some direction for my compositional style, which was up
until then primarily influenced by jazz, popular music and 20th Century
guitar composers such as Brouwer, Rodrigo and Villa-Lobos.
As a student I got interested in American and Eastern European minimalist music. I didn’t want to simply imitate the minimalist composers so instead I used some of their techniques and merged or developed them further. ‘7-11’ is probably my most strictly minimalist ‘process’ piece and so a number of processes are found in it.

The first is the use of additive time signatures which go firstly from 7/4 through to 11/4 and then from 7/8 to 11/8. This additive time signature technique is often associated with Philip Glass, but I had coincidentally used it in an early guitar piece ‘Rollercoaster’ before I’d heard his music. (‘Yeah, sure you did’, I hear you all saying!)

The next technique which I’ll call ‘additive and subtractive chords’, is the gradual addition of notes to a phrase until a large cluster chord is created and vice versa. In other words the first time the phrase is in octaves or fifths then as the phrase is repeated one or more extra notes are added until a dense cluster chord is created then it gets pared down again. With each time signature change comes a new cycle of additive and subtractive chords which occur simultaneously with additive time signatures. With each time signature change comes a change of the primary harmony.

I also occasionally use additive and subtractive rhythms whereby rhythmic lines are gradually elaborated or reduced by the addition or subtraction. This is a technique often associated with Steve Reich, which he got from Ghanaian music.

These techniques drive most of the piece until towards the end when I use Polymetric Cycles, whereby repeated phrases in two or more different metres are played simultaneously until the metres meet up in cycles. This is a technique I thought I’d invented and was so proud of my discovery until I found out that Dusan Bogdanovic got there before me, long before me in fact. Yet long before him a similar technique was developed by musicians in Central and West Africa!

While all this technical mumbo jumbo may make it seem like this is a cold mathematical piece, I created it all quite instinctively and was very conscious to ensure it was musically direct, rhythmic and harmonious. In saying that there’s no story to the piece, there’s no profound meaning or symbolism to be pertained from it. It’s just a piece of music for your listening pleasure or displeasure, depending on your taste.