Instrumentation: Violin & Fixed Electronics (Stereo Playback)
About: My first experiment with a fully microtonal work, Rusted Sugar is written in 24 EDO (quartertones), with a synthesiser accompaniment. Commissioned by Larissa O’Grady and funded by the Arts Council Ireland Project Award as part of the CMC Ireland‘s Contemporary Artist Network Scheme. The piece was premiered on 3rd Sep 2023 at the Hugh Lane Gallery and described in a review by the Journal of Music as “bright as fluorescent light”. Read the full review here. Recorded at the CMC, the piece will available in early 2024.
Microtonal harmony has always struck me as having a quality of saturated sweetness, a somewhat sickly feeling of overindulgence, due to the richness and resonance of the adjusted intervals. For my first piece properly engaging with microtonal writing, the topic of sugar therefore seemed a suitable starting point. Our relationship with sugar has a complex history, from its medicinal use in the ancient world, the wealth it generated as a luxury spice, or the terrible and bloody history of its production on cane sugar plantations. Its ubiquity in modern times has increased our awareness of its effects on us: we are warned with bright red symbols of high sugar content in our food, informed of its addictive, drug-like qualities, and conscious of the profound effects that over-consumption or withdrawal of sugar can have on our mental state.
The structure of Rusted Sugar loosely follows a chemical process: the stages of burning sucrose sugar until its molecules break down and separate, leaving only carbon behind. The musical relationship between the violin and electronics vacillates between coalescence and disintegration, moments of harmonic or metric unity dissolving into friction before aligning again.
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