Gabriella Smith

Notes from the Composer

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

(x) = xsin2x+x

Performed Curtis Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Francesco Lecce-Chong

I get a lot of my inspiration from the forms, structures, and energies in the natural world, and I also like math, which can describe these forms, designs, and energies so elegantly and concisely. This piece has three climaxes, each one bigger and more intense than the previous one.  The function f(x) = xsin2x + x simply describes the curve (an ascending sine wave) of the energy of this piece as it progresses through time.  


Down the Foggy Ruins of Time

Performed by Kelly Coyle (clarinet), Julia Li (violin), Branson Yeast (cello), and Andrew Hsu (piano) of the Curtis Institute of Music


Down the foggy ruins of time is inspired by the lyrics to Bob Dylan’s song "Mr. Tambourine Man."  It is in three movements, played without a break. The first movement, "You might hear laughing, spinning, swinging," is fast and with a groove, filled with uneven bars, jagged accented lines, and large leaps. Eventually it dissolves into quiet, downward-moving noodlings, ending with all the instruments playing at the bottom of their ranges to form a muddy, mysterious mixture. The second movement, "Down the foggy ruins of time," is in theme-and-variation form and full of dense, mysterious, foggy sonorities, eerie tremolos, gentle, mysterious glissandos, and quietly beating cluster chords. It begins mysteriously as an eerie clarinet melody emerges from the fog while the violin noodles around it, accompanied by quiet clusters in the piano. The variations of this theme gradually work their way up to a climax in which the gentle, mysterious glissandos wail, the quietly beating cluster chords pound intensely, and the eerie noodlings turn into vast sweeps across the clarinet’s range. The variations continue, now slowly dying, until the movement ends as softly as it began. The third movement, "Madly across the sun," is a fast, crazy, folksy dance that eventually loses control and spins its way into a frenzy at the end of the piece. 

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Comments [2]

I like the energy of "(x) = xsin2x+x." An exciting piece. Maybe the equation though should be a subtitle? It's too dry a title for such upbeat music. Not sure that [this 2nd of the 3 movements of] "Down the Foggy Ruins of Time" works as a stand-alone piece. From the composer's description of the other movements I can imagine this working as part of the whole (even ending where it began would help it to connect the two higher-energy movements), but despite some lovely writing here, the fact that it doesn't (on its own) "go" anywhere makes it hard to get into. I'd like to hear the other movements.

Jun. 28 2010 02:05 PM
Dr. Scott Giles from Sacramento, CA

"(x) = xsin2x+x"

I appreciate the construction of the work. It is good. I am not convinced of the orchestration, particularly of the percussion which seems rather haphazard. The wind music, though, is well executed. Still, there is nothing here that hasn't already been done better by John Adams.

"Down the Foggy Ruins of Time" starts out very good. It lacks sentimentality and promises intriguing harmonies. For the most part, it lives up to its promise.

Jun. 21 2010 01:09 AM

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