Composer Christopher Hopkins shares the inspiration behind his piece “Echoes Fantasy” for two pianos and two vibraphones. Zeitgeist will perform this work in their New Music Harvest concerts Sept. 26-28 alongside music by Shulamit Ran, Cort Lippe, and Abbie Betinis.
Echoes Fantasy is one of several recent compositions in which I integrate ideas from historical and modern musical forms. In these compositions I look to the deeper motivations and overarching poetic gestures found in historical forms, then reveal these in a composition that has modern formal and stylistic characteristics. The dialectic of the historical and modern identities are a matter of background, there is no use of quotation or style imitation. The aim is to create a synthetic whole.
In Echoes Fantasy I work with the genre of the solo fantasia as developed from the sixteenth to the early eighteenth century. In particular, I am inspired by pieces in a quasi-improvisational style, that revel in extroversions of elaboration, and that purposefully remain elusive in their generative logic. I transform this solo genre into a work for an ensemble, four keyboards of similar timbres, selected for their ability to blend and thereby to create the affect of a single complex instrument. I resist the creation of a true polyphonic texture, which would shift the historical model away from the solo to the ensemble fantasia, a type associated more with ingenious tactics of composed melodic imitation than with spontaneous improvisation. Still, while I use no true polyphonic forms, there are allusions to multiple voices through the use of overlapping echoic variations of motives, this more a matter of drama than of structure.
While a historical fantasia provides an overarching idea of form and style of gesture, modern metrical, rhythmic, and pitch-timbral forms provide the elemental level. Symmetries of prime numbers organize both the tempo and the metric structure. Rhythmic divisions and offsets are fluid and set against beats that shift in time value. The tonality is complex, with whole sonorities as focal points, these sonorities often being themselves so complex as to provide timbral rather than harmonic values. These elemental forms I consider not only to be well suited to the fantasia form but actually to give an element of fantasia to many modern compositions not so deliberately identified. In creating Echoes Fantasy I first adopted the idea of fantasia from historical models, but later found that the genre was already an integral aspect of my more modern musical experience.
Christopher Hopkins is an American composer working in both experimental and traditional forms, with special interests respectively in electroacoustic music and dialectics of historical and contemporary forms. He is on the faculties of Music and Human-Computer Interaction at Iowa State University, where in addition to creative work in music composition he conducts research coordinating sound synthesis with 3-D haptic virtual reality.
Zeitgeist: New Music Harvest
Sept. 26-28, 7:30 p.m.
Studio Z: 275 E. Fourth Street, Suite 200, St. Paul