Sub-Stance

for wind orchestra (2013)

Premiered by the Elder Conservatorium Wind Orchestra and conductor Robert ‘Bob’ Hower in Elder Hall, 18 October 2013.

  1. ec+ce

  2. (f)rapture

  3. QuaDrop

Sub-stance, for wind orchestra, is comprised of three movements, each focussed on a combination of a mathematical concept/idea, a trope of an EDM (electronic dance music) style and a drug/substance.

ec+ce, from the Latin ecce (‘Behold!’), brings together symmetrical structures (both harmonic and formal), electro-pop and the medically described experience of taking ecstasy or eccy pills - no first hand experience of this on the composer’s part. Alternating between pop song-like verse and chorus sections, the central reflective point is embodied in a symmetrical permutational fugue, after which the piece doubles backwards on itself, convulsing in rhythmic groove confusion.

This fuses into the ambient realms of (f)rapture, which sees a thematic idea evolve and grow larger and more detailed over time, much like a fractal. As the heroin takes its effect over time, harmonies becoming denser and the rapturous climax eventually reached, the side effects start to take over, with the rough rumblings of the bass instruments taking over the focus.

Emerging from the wobble of the low tones is the bass drum, leading incessantly into the final movement. QuaDrop, referring to both the use of quadratic functions to map the density of instrumentation over time to the dubstep style ‘drop’ (a cadence-like plunge into intense bass and rhythmic activity), as well as the consumption of acid, is in four sections which progressively harken back to the ideas of the previous movements, albeit in a distorted fashion. Here, the short and catchy melodic hook rules, building towards higher and denser climaxes. As the end approaches, the overdosed music raucously trips over and chaotically collapses on itself, obliterating any chance of the vitriolic processes regaining control.