“The Oracle” – An Experiment in Aleatorism & Formula

I’m in the middle of composing a real neat piece right now for a July 1 deadline… I’m calling it “The Oracle,” and it’s for flute/piccolo, Bb clarinet, violin, cello, and piano.

matrixoracleWhat I’ve done is set up a complex set of “rules” that guide my writing based on the random drawing of tarot cards… But it’s turned out to be both an aleatoric and a highly flexible process that leaves me with a lot of artistic possibilities, though I’m being guided in the overall structure by the cards I draw and their placement in the spread I’ve chosen.

As you might imagine, knowing me, I’m having a ton of fun with this. There’s something thrilling about the mixture of using both a pre-compositional process that prevents me from fully anticipating the outcome of a work combined with that process allowing for a vast amount of contextual freedom!

Enjoy a sample of the work at the end of this post…

One of the spreads I drew to guide the structure of one the piece’s sections.

To start this project, I spent 2 days constructing a detailed legend of sorts, equating tarot suits, numbers, and major-vs-minor arcana with specific instruments, intervals, ranges, etc. (Starting last year, I began intensely studying the psychology and mythology of the tarot; I am utterly fascinated with its history and meaning with regard to a symbolic understanding of the way our minds process and interpret information!) 😉

The minor arcana each represent one of the melodic instruments: Fire=violin, Water=cello, Air=Flute, Earth=clarinet. Each of the major arcana represent a pre-determined range of notes on the piano, depending on where a certain card falls on the Cabalistic Tree of Life. And, having a basic understanding of each card’s open-ended meaning and character allows me to frame the instruments’ musical attitudes in any given section of the work. It’s an unfolding, musical story!

Constructing this piece has been such an exciting journey of symbolism, story, formula, and chance… I can’t wait to complete it and share it in its entirety with you!

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