A Luminous Fog of Voices

A Luminous Fog of Voices is a piece for large Wind Ensemble in two movements. This piece is about drawing music from fog- pulling instruments out of the texture to reveal melodies, harmonies, and timbres that were otherwise hidden. One of the ways this piece does this is through crossfading instruments that together form a cluster chord, but the crossfading creates a changing chord progression.

The first movement is largely soft and textural. The flutes hold mysterious pedals at the bottom of their register, and there is a brief introduction to the ‘fog’- a 9-note cluster chord, out of which three different chords fade in and out- two different clusters, and a minor triad. After this, members of the ensemble hum and sing the ghostly, mysterious main motif of the piece extremely slowly. After several repetitions, this gradually works its way into a long melody sung by the voices. Distant rhythmic figures in groupings of 5 sixteenth notes provide gentle foreshadowing. After the melody returns to the note with which it began, it is reprised again in its entirety, but as it does so, the accompaniment becomes more and more unsettled and violent- low, snarling brass clusters crossfading with explosions of various bells and wind chimes. The flute pedal point eventually grows into a fog of cluster chords that pushes the music to a climax, where the 5-rhythm finally comes to prominence in the bass drum and timpani. However, the climax quickly evaporates into a wash of bells and cymbals, and dissipates into distant reiterations of the motif in all the various bell-like instruments. This ends the first movement.

The second movement begins in stark contrast to the first, in the lowest register of the basses. This movement reverses the 5-rhythm from the first movement and combines it with the main motif, which gives it a gruff, march-like character. After a few tries, the march gets going and gradually becomes more powerful. However, the music still retains some elements of ‘fogginess’- some of the complex rhythmic polyrhythms that occur due to the quintuplet base of the march obscures the pulse in some moments, and there are still many crossfading colors- especially in a long descending scalar sequence with the timbre constantly shifting. The music eventually builds to a huge climax, before grinding the march to a halt, and it dies down into a final statement at the bottom register of the harp, which fades into a fog of low percussion. The motif returns in its original form, presented on the almglocken, and then the entire wind ensemble enters with a ‘fog’ cluster chord as soft as possible. Out of this fog emerges, distantly, a major chord. This begins a long marimba solo- the marimba turns the motif upside down, and transforms it into a lyrical, soaring melodic line. The band accompanies the marimba solely through crossfading- creating a chorale accompaniment generated solely by dynamics, crossfading out of the fog. At the climax of the solo, the marimba returns the 5-rhythm to its original form from the first movement. The trumpets then pick up the motif, and gradually, one by one, the instruments come out of the fog and crystallize into a dominant chord, and finally the music triumphantly settles on Eb major in a luminous burst of light. The original 5-rhythm plays off of the version from the march that began the movement, in soaring, descending lines. The tension between these two ideas keeps pushing the music away towards a minor key, but with a final statement of the motif in the chimes and a huge blast of sound in the tam-tam, the entire band sings a final major chord. One by one, they pick up their instruments and crescendo, and in doing so summarize the progression of the entire piece: Out of the fog of the huge tam-tam crash, emerges a choir of voices, and this choir slowly metamorphoses into a wind ensemble.

Score (pdf): A Luminous Fog of Voices- C Score

Recording (a reading by the UW Wind Ensemble- this was done without rehearsal so it is a bit rough, but should give a basic sense):

For additional information, questions, or parts requests, contact Aidan at aidangol@usc.edu.