Posted 18 January 2006, 19:13


A drone of varying densities built from layers of complex justly-intoned chords with scintillating harmonics.

Duration: 12 minutes.

Background & Technical Details

My primary motivation for this piece was to continue working with chords built from combination tones (see Combination Study 1, Cloud Dragon, Drift Dhikr, and Drift Dhikr Interactive) but to start exploring denser, more complex sonorities.

I continue to be fascinated and inspired by La Monte Young’s work, in this case three specific chords from The Well-Tuned Piano and various sine-tone installations: the Opening Chord, the Magic Chord, and the Magic Opening Chord. I didn’t use Young’s chords literally, but instead made five new chords whose pitches I derived based on the combination tones (summation, difference, and periodicity pitch) implied by his chords. The piece was built by combining these five chords in various layers.

Sine waves are the only sound materials used in this piece, but they are processed using a type of reverberation. I used this particular reverb opcode in Csound because it not only provides the sense of spaciousness one would expect, but also has the side-effect of creating a kind of randomized arpeggiation in the higher harmonics that evokes for me the visual phenomenon that astronomers call scintillation. If the resulting timbres seem to be more complex than simple sine waves, it’s because of the number of sine oscillators that sound simultaneously (from a minimum of 35 to a maximum of 209), and because the precise mathematical relationships between the tones creates the impression of complex composite waveforms. The “rhythms” in the middle of the piece are examples of the acoustical phenomenon of beating, which I worked with previously in The Gemini Nebula.

In the title, I’m using the word sublimation based on its meaning in the physical realm, inspired by recent conditions here in the New Hampshire countryside where the snow fields have been covered with dense white mist.

It’s important to mention that I couldn’t have made this piece (or my other La Monte Young-related pieces) without the help of Kyle Gann’s article The Outer Edge of Consonance: Snapshots from the Evolution of La Monte Young’s Tuning Installations in the book Sound and Light, which is essential to any serious study of Young’s music.

Update: A belated “thank you” to Kyle Gann for adding Sublimation to the playlist for his PostClassic Radio show!

Update 2 (15 June 2006): I am pleased to note that Tim Rutherford-Johnson (see the comments section) has been kind enough to include Sublimation in a very cool avant-classical mix Thanks, Tim!

Copyright & Licensing

Copyright © 2006, Dave Seidel. Some rights reserved. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License.


MP3 (28MB)
Csound unified score file (7KB)


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