RINGING CHANGES (1970)
“Ringing Changes was composed in 1969 and ‘70 for the excellent ensemble of student percussionists founded and directed by Raymond DesRoches, The work is in a single long movement, and is based on a continuous polyphonic skeleton which lies beneath the sonic surface of the work, and which generates the moment-to-moment continuity. Here the music is divided between pitched and non-pitched voices, and a basic four-voice polyphony is disposed with two voices given to the pitched instruments — mainly piano four-hands and vibraphones — and two (“noise” or relative pitch) given with various alternations and duplications to sets of 12 metal instruments, 12 drums, 6 cymbals, and 4 tam-tams. An occasional inflectional role is performed by a string drum, and at the end chimes and timpani appear.
“Ringing Changes is in F-natural, and though the surface of the work is not so complex . . . the underlying polyphony is more so. Particularly, F-natural as the first element in the work’s twelve-tone set, and the intervals of that set arc translated into time-lengths on scales ranging from the local to the overall, exert constant controlling influence. You hear F-natural at the beginning and at the end, in the traditional role of starting point and goal of return. You feel the work on the other hand to be circular because of this circumstance, on the other progressive, because of its twelve-tone ambience. But you cannot hear what is most important — that every level of the work represents my response to the shape suggested by the interval-succession of the set. In my language this is called “responding to nothing with something.” “Nothing,” because the intervals are, after all, “empty space”; “something,” because they are defined by musical objects — notes and noises — and though these latter are the acoustical realia of music, it is the nothingness between them that gives them meaning.”
Finally, from another of Wuorinen’s program notes:
“The foregoing, however, is meant only to provide an initial entry into the work. . . the listener, in his response to the music, must ultimately assume active responsibility for what it means to him. Once a work has left its maker, it follows its own life.”