Instrumentation: solo vibraphone
Written in Brighton, April-November 2015
First performed by Joby Burgess at the National Portrait Gallery, 8th January 2016.
Without motion, the slides of a film lack animation: every frame depicts a static moment in time, each one isolated from from its surrounding context. As the revolution of the tape reel picks up speed, and the rate of progression from one frame to the next begins to increase, a once-frozen sequence of moments without gesture is gradually transformed into a lush, breathing continuum, and the presence of flowing colour, of life previously imperceptible, is at last revealed: harmony is transformed into melody.
Throughout the opening section of ‘Freeze-Frame’, simple, interlocking polyrhythms emerge, only to decay, fall apart, come undone at the seams and scatter. As the piece progresses, the harmonic rhythm between these stark, static blocks of sound accelerates, gradually revealing a melodic line which emerges from the lower voice.
We find that rhythm itself, despite being a conspicuous feature of the piece to begin (perhaps the only real feature), is essentially redundant, unable to hold anything together or provide a coherent structure. What is of upmost importance is ‘harmonic’ rhythm. This allows us to blur the lines between harmonic progressions and melodic line; between dissonant dyads and sweeter, flowing melodies, and to draw to our attention what has been there all along, undetected.
By various means, elements of the work are turned on their head: B over C becomes C over B; harmony becomes melody; rhythm becomes cadenza; dissonance gives way to consonance; the two voices spell out a near-continuous contrary motion, as the sequence of notes firstly explored forwards is then back-tracked in reverse order.
‘Freeze-Frame’ was commissioned by (and is dedicated to) the percussionist Joby Burgess, through the Sound and Music Portfolio scheme ‘Aluminium Music’.