corpuscular theory of light [2013]

Marc Yeats - Composer

corpuscular theory of light [2013]


corpuscular theory of light: instrumentation – clarinet in Bb, soprano saxophone, xylophone. circa 12 minutes in duration.

notes: The instrumentalists play independently of each other. Music is cued to begin only or at various points throughout the work. There is no ‘fixed’ synchronisation between the instrumentalists. Whilst the relationship of each instrument is flexibly placed against its neighbour, care has been taken to calculate potential outcomes of coincidence and variability. To this end it is vital that metronome markings are adhered to as accurately as possible although the composer appreciates that it is the various interpretations and practicalities inherent in the realisation of tempi that contribute to the richly unique nature and interplay of each performance.

There is only one instruction to the players; to begin when indicated and play until their material is completed or they are cued to commence playing again. Compositional material is derived from a series of distant variations that unify all sections with thematic landmarks. Thematic material is audible throughout the piece, bringing cohesion and structure to the work. All the instrumental roles are written to a high degree of virtuosity and most contain extended techniques and quarter-tones. The music itself forms dense, highly complex and constantly changing relationships that are frequently wild and sometimes beautiful.

The score and parts I have not produced a score for the corpuscular theory of light; difficulties and variables associated with displaying the musical material in vertical alignment as represented in real time are considerable. Each performance will yield somewhat different results, interplays, gestural and harmonic references and outcomes. As a result, the material contained within the piece can only be read via the instrumental parts. Consequently there is no definitive performance of the piece.

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corpuscular theory of light can only be realised through performance [as opposed to comprehended by reading through a score]; this is the nature of the music – it has to be experienced to be ‘known’.

A note about the title: In optics, corpuscular theory of light, originally set forward by Pierre Gassendi, states that light is made up of small discrete particles called “corpuscles” (little particles) which travel in a straight line with a finite velocity and possess kinetic energy This theory was largely developed by Sir Isaac Newton. Newton’s theory remained in force for more than 100 years and took precedence over Huygen’s wave front theory, partly because of Newton’s great prestige. However when the corpuscular theory failed to adequately explain the diffraction, interference and polarisation of light it was abandoned in favour of Huygen’s wave theory.

I was drawn to corpuscular theory of light as a title because in my mind, the brittle and kinetic interplay of sounds between the three instrumentalists brought to mind the qualities of light shattering and reflecting on various surfaces [such as water] in much the same way as the sounds in this music shatter and reflect each other as they collide in the performance space