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Antiphony (2018)

for 14 players (double septet) 


Septet A: piccolo, oboe, trombone, tuba, marimba/xylophone + aux, violin, cello


Septet B: clarinet, bassoon, horn, trumpet, vibraphone + aux, viola, double bass

awaiting opportunity for premiere

Program Note 

Antiphony splits a 14-player chamber orchestra into dual instrumental septets, each comprising duo woodwinds, duo brass, and duo strings, with appended mallet instrument(s) — marimba (doubling xylophone) or vibraphone.


Besides the symmetry that attends to instrumental make-up of the ensemble as divided into mirroring halves, the tonal materials of the piece are subject to strict control: each septet has only 6 tones of the chromatic 12, with no tonal overlap between septets. Hexachordal complementation therefore serves to heighten the antiphonal premise and widen the divide between groups, even as they engage in contrapuntal dialogue. The entire piece derives from only 3 pairs of hexachords in a tonal-area “rondo”:

A/B, C/D, A’/B’ (     original tones), A/B (restored to full tonal membership), C/D, A/B.

Each pair pervades long stretches of music, yielding plentiful resources despite a presumption of ready exhaustion. C/D relates to both A/B and A’/B’ by means of 3-tone exchange or “shuffle.”

In order to maintain distinction of each hexachord as a separate entity amidst intermingling, whole phrases are composed via cyclical process adapted from traditional dodecaphony, whereby no tone repeats until all 6 have sounded, permitting simultaneities. The opening motif in marimba strings together four such 6-tone cycles:





Bihexachordality resembles bitonality, insofar as 6 tones are enough to imply tonal area and may constitute partial scalar membership. Hexachord “B” possesses 6 of 7 tones belonging to the c# minor scale, although (a) it is purposefully not implemented to accentuate this feature; (b) its complement, hexachord “A,” is consequently non-scalar.




Antiphony aspires to serve as logico-musical “proof” of extra-tertiary, post-dissonant tonality — not in the sense that dissonances, emancipated, run amok, dismantling outdated hierarchies of functional harmony; rather, intervallic qualities of all kinds are invited to partake of collective sonority and enjoined to build novel webs of interrelation and unique patterns of tension and resolution. Conjunct voiceleading, imitative correspondence, and phrase structure borrowing from classical archetype all contribute to intelligibility of tonal grammar.

While the concerns above are foundational from the technical standpoint of conceiving the work, they are incidental to the proverbial listener. On the surface, several musical attributes supercede split-hexachordality in salience. Antiphony is lively and intricate, albeit mercurial, its moods responsive to tonal motions, its form presenting as strophic variations. Although a work for sinfonietta-sized ensemble, Antiphony is composed in the spirit of chamber music, with mallet-writing at its heart, as wellspring of musical idea and centerpiece of each subset-septet.

Antiphony marimba theme.jpg
Antiphony tempo marker.jpg

opening motif, 4 cycles of Hexachord "A," in marimba

Antiphony vibraphone excerpt.jpg

responsive motif, 3 cycles of Hexachord "B" in vibraphone




Antiphony upload JPEG p1.jpg

manuscript, Feb-March 2018

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