Equations/Constellations
for guitar and harp

Composition Date: 2015
Duration: 00:15:00
Genre: Strings (plectral), Ensemble, Mixed Ensembles, Duet

Instrumentation:

Instrumentation Set Number 1:
  • 1 x Guitar
  • 1 x Harp
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Programme Note:
Composing this work was a lesson in creativity for me. I had set out with a goal to write a jousting, competitive dual for 2 virtuoso players. I had a meticulous plan made of chords, pitches, long term structure, and candezas. I began to write, and out came what I immediately recognized as a totally different piece. This was a junction: One road would leverage my technique as a composer to will my plan into being. The other would abandon my preconceived ideas, instead listening deeply to the music that had emerged, pursuing it with technique in tow. So which to choose? I followed the music, and Equations/Constellations is the result. The title Equations/Constellations comes directly from an email response that harpist Sanya Eng had sent me in response to a pre-compositional interview: Staniland: “What is it about the combination for guitar/harp and or Rob (MacDonald)/Sanya (Eng) that excited you to want to do a program together? Eng: “After working with Rob (MacDonald) on the Leroux I knew in my gut that I had to explore this combination of instruments further not only because of how fantastic the pairing can sound when done right, but also because of how great it is to work with Rob. I truly believe that amazing things happen when all the elements align, and this is one of those equations/formulas/constellations”. I liked the musical possibilities of the terms, and the way the hyphen suggests a formula or process of modulation of the two concepts.

The piece unfolds as follows:
I Equations
Equation 1: “Dreaded Sea Angels” Equation 2: “Expansion”
II Constellations
Constellation 1: “Hubble Hauptstimme: Omega Centauri with imagined lensing”
Constellation 2: “Again, Higher”
III Equations/Constellations: “Ludus”

In Equations, the subtitle “Dreaded Sea Angels” references two of my recent works Dreaded Sea Voyage, for guitar and electronics, and Four Angels, for orchestra. The tetrachoral motif in this movement combines traits from these 2 pieces, creating a new hybrid motif which is explored timbrally, finding its way through similarity (equation) and difference (non-equation) in both register and instrumentation. In Constellations, inspired by Sanya Eng’s interview, I took a photo from the Hubble Space Telescope (a close-up of the Star Cluster Omega Centauri), taped it to a piece of manuscript, and poked a bunch of holes in the image that aligned with bright stars. I then peeled back the photo to reveal the music that appeared on the manuscript. The resulting melody appears as a long delicate phrase with a subtle Renaissance sound to it due to a modal treatment. In its 2 appearances, it is written in strict canon as a musical metaphor to Einstein’s theory of gravitational lensing, where light from the cosmos can appear distorted, and even appear in multiple places. The work concludes in Equations/Consellations: Ludus, latin for game. Here the instruments interact with a rhythmic riddle using percussive and melodic ideas drawn from the previous 2 movements. The writing is joyful, underlied by a mysterious riddle/formula/equation/constellation. Equations/Constellations was commissioned by Daniel Cooper, and is dedicated to harpist Sanya Eng and guitarist Rob MacDonald.

Premiere Information:
31 March 2017, Music Gallery, Toronto, Ontario
Rob MacDonald, Guitar; Sanya Eng, Harp

CATALOGUE INFO:

  • Call Number:
  • MI 4242 S784equ
  • Genre:
  • Strings (plectral), Ensemble, Mixed Ensembles, Duet
  • Date of Acquisition:
  • April 24, 2017
  • Type:
  • Print-music, Published by CMC
  • Physical Description:
  • Score
    34 Pages
    Height: 30 cm
    Width: 23 cm
    Parts page count: 37
    2 parts
    37 Pages
    Height: 30 cm
    Width: 23 cm
  • Additional Information:
  • Equations
    Constellations
    Equations/Constellations: “Ludus”

    Commissioned By: Daniel Cooper
    Dedicated to Rob MacDonald and Sanya Eng
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Equations/Constellations for guitar and harp: Score and Parts
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Equations/Constellations for guitar and harp by Andrew Staniland (Score)
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