Canadian Premiere, January 23 & 24, 2016 | Victoria Symphony | Alexander Prior, conductor | Victoria, BC, Canada.
In the field of materials science, the study of fracture mechanics makes a fundamental distinction between fractures that occur at different levels of tensile stress. In the case of brittle fracture, there is little or no apparent plastic deformation before failure occurs; in other words, cracks travel so fast that it is often impossible to tell when the material will break.
Brittle Fracture attempts to depict this type of structural failure in musical terms. Inspired by modulation and temporal manipulation techniques commonly employed in pop music production, the piece is based on a simple four-note piano theme that is performed as if it were being processed through an echo unit. The piano’s resulting spectral content is selectively captured, extended, and transformed by the orchestral instruments, effectuating a long-range rhythmic, melodic, registral, articulative, and dynamic intensification. Throughout this textural crescendo, the music undergoes various types and degrees of stress that attempt to disrupt the constant musical flow. At the peak of the process the music finally buckles under its own weight, causing an abrupt rupture in the structure. A series of these fractures occurs, slicing between two contrasting musical surfaces until the inevitable and complete dissolution of their constituent materials.