MAT MARTIN | Graphic Score – Orrery (Corvus/Corona Borealis)



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Download Score: Orrery (Corvus/Corona Borealis) (2006)

Solo harp or solo piano interior
For Rhodri Davies
Indeterminate duration

An orrery is a mechanical device which uses clockwork to demonstrate the movements of parts of the solar system, and has been the inspiration for this simple piece. It is to be performed on harp, piano interior or any instrument which allows direct contact with resonant strings.

Two constellations have been traced across the night sky, and ‘orreries’ built of their position / orientation at certain points in the year. These are laid out around one another in the score, moving in opposing directions and displaying their permutations on a two-dimensional plane.

The piece requires a simple ‘re-application’ technique of the performer – the string is set into motion then touched using objects (glass, paper, metal or wood) to change the sound from a pure tone. Each ‘orrery’ is built around a central vertical axis, and all pitches on one side have a mirror image on the other. The strings are set in motion with the fingers on the left hand side of the axis and the foreign material (given for each phase) is applied to the string on the right hand side. As the piece progresses the positions of the events in these two dimensional ‘orreries’ gradually alter with their ‘orbits’, leaving the internal relationships of structure that build the constellation to act as a single identifiable constant.

The objects used should be capable of producing sounds which are sufficiently different from one another. Thick paper is recommended, and a rounded glass object (such as a large marble or paperweight) suggested. ‘Half pedal’ positions (buzzing the string shortening mechanism against the string) on a double action harp could be used to create some of the metallic sounds. Although no pitch is defined in the score it is suggested that a register of the instrument which offers deep and long sustaining properties will allow the most time for the re-application process, and that wound strings may give more sonically complex results. Pitch areas do not need to be consistent between phases provided the overall shapes are maintained. Although the piece is marked with a general lento, experimentation will dictate the speed at which each phase must be taken to avoid sounds fading before the re-application is performed. The higher in pitch the phase is placed, the more speed will be needed.

The piece was composed in September of 2006 for Rhodri Davies, and was inspired by his series of constellations concerts. Thanks are also offered to the friendly people at Jodrell Bank, who gave me the name of the ‘whirring clockwork thing that shows all the planets’ orbits’.