2 pianos and 2 percussions (vibraphone and marimba)

Commission: Radio Music Department — CBC

And just what is this spell that wind chimes cast so effortlessly on the ear?

Perhaps it is really nothing other than the vague promise of calm arising from the unpredictable and relaxing rhythms. Or maybe it is something more — perhaps an alluring paradox created by the coexistence of, on the one hand, a sense of rigid limitation experienced in the dimension of pitch and timbre and, on the other, a sense of complete freedom experienced in the spontaneous and endless variety of rhythm. Or perhaps it is a paradox of another sort altogether — one that resides in the rather surprising temptation for the ear to seek a hidden dimension of organization or pattern underlying the rhythms of the chimes; both paradoxical and surprising because the ear is, eventually, tempted to imagine that which it seeks even though it knows full well it does not actually exist.

The term ‘aeolian’ (or eolian) can be used in association with the wind, or with an early church mode bearing the same name; the title Eolian Braid was chosen with reference to the former.

Constructed especially for Eolian Braid, twenty-one sets of wind chimes were used to make a recorded accompaniment for use in live performance. Existing as a background layer characterized by diverse rhythms and timbres, the recorded chimes create the illusory presence of different winds that come and go almost unpredictably throughout the piece. The two pianos, vibraphone and marimba generate a foreground layer that unlike the chimes, is a texture of controlled rhythmic processes involving repetition, pattern, phase and transformation. The complex counterpoint arising from the coexisting rhythmic strands within each of the two layers and the juxtaposition and intertwining of those layers on the larger level produce a textural counterpoint that, overall, might be described best as a rhythmic braid.

While compositional techniques used in Eolian Braid might be traced to a range of sources, certain works by the composer György Ligeti stand as the most inspiring and influential.

  • Recording: CD: Arktos 20039/40