Palette / Riffs

Palette / Riffs (1998) explores one aspect of how we perceive musical discourse (at least, in the western art-music tradition). This aspect can be summed up in two questions: "is this part of this piece related to something I have heard before?" or "is this part of this piece not related to anything I have heard before?" It is the combination of these two "musics" that make the form of the piece. The opening material - the "riffs" - returns several times in the course of the work. These recurrences are set off by other musical material that is not related to anything else in the piece. The "not riffs" material is more concerned with the palette of colors available from this particular ensemble (alto flute / flute, clarinet / bass clarinet, percussion, violin, viola and cello), hence the title. Contrast between the two types of music is further heightened by registral and texture differences: the "riffs" material is mostly confined to the middle range, and features a unison texture. The "palette" material has more textural variety (including some quarter-tones), and has more extremes of high and low pitch.