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


indeterminate duration

notation-installation in textiles for soloist

representation of the horizon as it is seen from Valhúsahæð on Seltjarnarnes, Reykjavík

mountains are divided between sections (textile hangings) and placed at distances from the player proportional to their real distances from Valhúsahæð

the performer considers four visual parameters of the score; the black contour line, the distance, the colour, and the texture. she pairs these as she wishes with the four musical parameters of pitch, intensity, timbre, and speed. no other temporal aspects (such as duration or rhythm) are inferred from the score

the Icelandic word hilling, usually in the plural hillingar, refers to the phenomenon of the ‘superior mirage’ whereby a distant object (such as a mountain) seems to float above the horizon, also known in Italian as Fata Morgana (referring to Morgan le Fay, whose magic was thought to create these illusions). in English, ‘hilling’ is a made-up verb meaning ‘to hill’!

performance by Sara Di Costanzo in 2022

this project was supported by Tónskáldasjóður RÚV og STEFs (RÚV and STEF Composer's Fund), Iceland

Keril Score Archive Catalogue

indeterminate / varied durations

fictional archive of 14 scores for septet

each has a museum-style label describing its provenance, category (unfinished, miniature, fragmentary, or atemporal), etc.

the focus is on fragmentation / unfinishedness in general, so many areas of the composition 'suffer' from these traits (e.g. the first page says there are 20 articles; it is implied 6 are missing).

masterclass performance by Caput Ensemble in 2022:
Guðni Franzson, conductor
Björg Brjánsdóttir, flute
Helga Björg Arnardóttir, clarinet
Öyvind Lapin Larsen, trumpet
Daníel Þorsteinsson, piano
Zbignyew Dubik, violin
Þórunn Ósk Marinósdóttir, viola
Bryndís Halla Gylfadóttir, cello

i pass as all things do



for harp, contrabass clarinet, and vibraphone

the piece is comprised of three contiguous sections; the first is focused on white noise, the second on pitched noise, and the third on purer tones. each section contains one ‘memory’, a shorter passage which is of a different character to the section it occupies

dedicated to the memory of Chester, and inspired by the death-haiku of Banzan (d. 15/08/1730):

i pass as all things do
dew on the grass

mame de iyo
mi wa narawashi no
kusa no tsuyu

performance in 2021 by:
John McCowen, contrabass clarinet
Matthias Engler, vibraphone
Gunnhildur Einarsdóttir, harp

fray star, echo

indeterminate duration
work in textiles for vocalist

texture and colour inform interpretation; two parameters acting on the same space at once, on the same sound at once

temporality emerges in performance

localised, personal ascription of meaning to asemic forms