Wave-Particle (2001) by Lori Dobbins
for cello, piano, and percussion
World premiere; Earplay commission

When composing, I first think about the kinetic aspect of music — how the music moves through time? fast, slow, or in between? pulsed and rhythmic, or more suspenseful and timeless? The interaction of musical materials and how they affect the form of the piece is also a primary concern. At times the musical ideas collide, changing the trajectory of the music, while at other times the different ideas are presented simultaneously, creating several layers of activity. In calmer sections, the instruments cooperate in presenting similar musical ideas.

Another important compositional choice is the instrumentation of a given work. I chose piano and percussion for their resonance and color. The ability of t\ he piano to cover a wide range and create an almost orchestral sound is utilized, particularly in the dramatic piano cadenzas in the first section and coda. In the cel\ lo writing, I emphasized the wide range and expressiveness of the instrument as well as its ability to sustain a note indefinitely.

In this piece, sixteenth notes, often repeated, with irregular accents are used to create rhythmic drive and pulse. Rhythmic cells provide some variety, and the\ sixteenth notes are, at times, disrupted by grace notes and triplet rhythms. Arpeggios covering a wide register provide "waves" which are not pulsed. These two music\ al ideas are the building blocks of the piece. Moving the 16th notes from a horizontal to vertical position is often used to build rhythmic chords, and melody is deriv\ ed from a slowed down version of the waves.

The title Wave-Particle refers to a physics term, wave-particle duality, which describes a basic feature of quantum mechanics: objects manifest both wave\ like and particle-like properties. I do not pretend to understand quantum mechanics, but believe this term serves as a good metaphor for this piece, in which the parti\ cles (16th notes, chords) and waves (arpeggios, melody) interact in many ways and often occur simultaneously.

The form of the piece is introduction, three main sections and a coda. A 12-note chord, which provides the basis for the harmony of the piece, is presented in t\ he introduction. The first section consists of rhythmic music alternating with wide-ranging arpeggios in the piano. Eventually, the "waves" take over, leading to a dra\ matic piano cadenza.

The second section features suspenseful, non-pulsed music, and begins with cello harmonics and tam-tam. Eventually, the cello provides a melody, accompanied by \ rich harmonies, sustained by trills and tremolos, in the piano and percussion instruments. Repeated notes, derived from the first section of the piece, return graduall\ y in the accompaniment to kick off the third section.

In the third section, musical ideas from the first two sections, including the rhythmic music, arpeggios, rhythmic chords, melody, and trills and tremolos, are \ superimposed. The coda begins with the vibraphone stating twelve pitches, which are derived from the chord that was presented in the introduction. Another piano cadenz\ a leads to the end of the piece.

Many thanks to the MacDowell Colony for providing me with the time and space needed to compose this piece.

— L. D.    

[from program for May 21, 2001 concert]