rory murphy


frequency illusion


work for sinfonietta in six (five) movements

a concurrent exploration into four focuses:

- hexadic harmony system
A new system I have developed for the generation and progression of hexadic harmony, which will be expounded in written form and made available as a computer program for free use in the future. The system was embedded into the score for soloists in the fifth movement, presented as a sculpture hanging behind the ensemble.

- conceptual pervasion
by which I mean a concept, particularly a non-musical one, is allowed to pervade all aspects of composition (i.e. is written into and/or informs the composition on many, if not all, levels). In the case of this work, the hexadic harmonic system is taken as the concept, and the senary essence of hexagons pervade (e.g. in the music from rhythms to form, in the staging/seating, in the notation, in the instrument-building, in the programme, in the mind, etc.)

- fragmentation/incompleteness
a philosophy of ‘allowing’ things to be as they are; of lessening interference with the tendencies of materials and my own intuition, and of the curious nature of things which are not ‘whole’ (especially as in this case something so theoretically perfect and symmetrical as the hexagon).

- ways of thinking
referring to the cognitive activities involved in the interpretation (by players), coordination (by a conductor), and perception (by perceptors*) of music, and various methods by which these can be influenced. Here, this refers to my attempts to circumvent the habitual tendencies of trained musicians and to approach interesting musical scenarios, usually through experimental notation.

*I found this little-used Latin term and took it to refer to those who perceive music by any and all senses through which it is expressed, presented, and contextualised. It is a term which I use to replace those of ‘listeners’ and ‘audience’ (due to their sonic bias), and prefer it especially because it refers to the phenomenological ‘sensing’ of stimuli by the sensory organs prior to their being coloured in the conscious mind by subsequent comprehension and categorisation.

The hexagonal programme booklet (containing poems, illustrations, and loose photographs which depict different occurrences of hexagons) is intended to prime the minds of the perceptors for hexagonal association with the music. While the notes say that there are six movements, each corresponding to a poem, there are really only five (a contrived fragmentation/incompleteness), and this might not be discovered until after the piece is played. Further to this, each programme is in a different order, and each has one page torn out. So, while the number of poems does correspond to the number of movements in the end, the revelation of information is staggered, and the knowledge of the prior presence of another page gives the same feeling to the music, so a sixth movement is imagined.

recording of premiere by Caput Ensemble, 02/05/2023:

Guðni Franzson, conductor
Steinunn Vala Pálsdóttir, flute, alto flute, hexagonal flute
Eydís Franzdóttir, oboe
Helga Björg Arnardóttir, clarinet, bass clarinet
Kristín Mjöll Jakobsdóttir, bassoon
Emil Friðfinnsson, horn
Øyvind Lapin Larsen, trumpet
Sigurður Þorbergsson, trombone
Steef van Oosterhout, percussion
Valgerður Andrésdóttir, piano
Zbigniew Dubik, violin
Agnes Gunnarsdóttir, violin
Anna Elísabet Sigurðardóttir, viola
Sigurður Bjarki Gunnarsson, violoncello
Hávarður Tryggvason, contrabass