A Sense of Space


Instrumental music as sound gestalts
Instrumental music as sound gestalts

Premiere: 5 March 2015, Alba Bru Carci (flute), Diego Castro Magaš (guitar), Peyee Chen (soprano, percussion), St. Paul’s Hall, University of Huddersfield, UK.

A Sense of Space


Programme note

A Sense of Space is for flute, guitar, and soprano with percussion. It works with different levels of magnification of instrumental timbre that reveals shades of grains and particles. The particulate sound vocabulary includes scratching on guitar strings with different durations and speeds, the sounds of crumbling shredded bamboo, and the brushing of sandpaper on wood. 

The vocalist with her phonation of breaths and whispers emulates these qualities. The piece is without words or text. Instead, language is disassembled down to phonetics, vowels, fricatives and air. Similar categories of timbre sit within a spectrum that can be identified as distortion or an airiness of tone. Degrees of density or resistance are shaped, where physical pressure is the key parameter for controlling the audibility of the graininess or grittiness of each surface. 

My instrumental approach is also about articulating a kind of dynamism through gestural variations, where parts of the score are also recycled but may go unnoticed because of their slight alterations. Time may appear to want to move forward but is stopped by an uncanny sense of stasis. Pauses and attenuations often occur after sections that are populated with the dense sound activity of a flourishing string of micro-tonal pitches, and parts offset in uneven rhythms. The frequent interpolation of rests as well as quiet passages allows the sounds of the performance space to become more present to audience attention. For me, the sounds of the space where intended to be listened to during these moments and are part of the work. The audience are therefore encouraged to listen openly and embrace the sounds around them during the piece.


The score is also available to purchase here at the Australian Music Centre website.

MONDAY, 7 MARCH 2016 AT 19:30
Trace Ensemble
St Paul’s Hall, University Of Huddersfield

Michael Finnissy Domestic and Salon Pastimes (1999) soprano, flute, guitar
Daniel Portelli A Sense of Space (2015/16) * soprano, flute, guitar
Michael Finnissy Song 1 (1966) solo voice
Medea (1973, rev. 2008) flute, guitar
Jorge Boehringer in warmer seasons (2016) * soprano, flute, guitar
Michael Finnissy Two Motets (1991) voice, guitar
Tristan Murail Unanswered Questions (1995) solo flute
Pedro Álvarez Monotype I (2014) ** soprano, flute, e-guitar
Pablo Vergara into open noir (2016) * soprano, flute, e-guitar
Pedro Álvarez Monotype II (2014) ** soprano, flute, e-guitar

* World premiere/**UK premiere


The work was selected for the website Sheer Pluck – A database of contemporary guitar music, by guitarist, co-author, and co-founder Seth Josel.

This database of contemporary guitar music is designed to provide a resource not only to “pluckers”, but potentially to journalists and scholars who are interested in the development of contemporary music in the 20th and 21st century. As well, Sheer Pluck is hoping to promote the guitar’s repertoire – which clearly is expanding in a most dramatic way at present – and stimulate further discourse and composition.