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ELECTRIC BLUE CLOUDS

‘Electric Blue Clouds’, for saxophone quartet, is a piece inspired by photographs recently taken by NASA (July 2018) of polar mesospheric (or ‘noctilucent’) clouds. It is both a musical response to these photographs, and also an exploration of how the morphology, formation, and nature of clouds might inform musical composition.


The first movement, ‘An Occluded Front’, uses air tones and multiphonics to create a smooth mutation from silence to air, from breath to tone, tone to pitch, and pitch to multiphonic. The result is a soundscape formed on the interpenetration of sound masses, dispersing as readily as they culminate.

The central movement, ‘Funnel’, exploits the fundamental unpredictability of cloud formation through varying levels of aleatoricism and indeterminacy. Nine fragments are presented to be performed in any order, more than once if desired, to be decided beforehand by the performers. Some fragments are entirely composed, others suggest lines of melody, or a group of notes to chose from, others suggest a composed block of material to be played in variable ways, offsetting from the other three members of the quartet. This patchwork compilation of fragments presents a moment form that is potentially infinite; the destination is present, but there is no path to it. The result is a semi-organised chaos, with moments of coherence found in recollection, the responses of the performers, and the relationships between the four parts.


The third movement, ‘Noctilucent’, is a coda of sorts: the absented view from above. Scraps of motif wander in and out of hearing, often dissolving as soon as they form. Fragments from the second movement are distilled, and conceptual ideas from the first movement are echoed. Just as noctilucent clouds enable us to visualise the flow of energy from larger gravity waves to smaller flow instabilities and turbulence in the upper atmosphere, the engagement of the lower three saxophones with the soprano grow out of the plainchant-like musings in a reflection of the larger coherence below/heard previously, yet one that is even more changeable and unstable.

This recording is compiled from the work's premier in Cambridge by the SIGMA Project Quartet (movements 1 and 3) and a separate recording by Nacho Mañá, Rowan Hawitt, Emily Neve, and George Speck (movement 2).

© 2018 Lara Weaver

Photo in header sourced from www.aol.com/article/news/2016/1…ent_skip=1565109698

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