• Gloria Coates
  • Symphony No. 1 "Music on Open Strings" (1972)
    (for string orchestra)

  • Henry Litolff’s Verlag GmbH & Co. KG (World)
  • str
  • 17 min

Programme Note

Music on Open Strings



I. Theme and Transformation

II. Scherzo

III. Scordatura

IV. Refracted Mirror Canon for Fourteen Lines


Although this piece might be analyzed as a form of the new so-called ‘political music of changing systems’, it was not conceived with that intention, but rather in abstract musical terms. This piece was written before the trend began, and it is entirely different in form and structure as well as content. My basic musical ideas involved working with changing colors, textures, structures and psychological time units developed organically within the cell structure of the music itself.

The sounds are derived from the open strings. In the first movement, the strings are tuned to the minor pentatonic Bb, C, Db, F, Gb. The open strings in mosaic outline a melodic phrase which becomes gradually transformed into a new sound complex.

During the third movement, a transformation occurs as the strings themselves retune during play and become the normal string tuning which is equivalent to the pentatonic C, D, E, G, A.

This scale is used vertically in the last movement, which is a fourteen line refracted mirror canon. The lines are in perpetual motion through the microtones building in quartet tones to the resolution, which is the square root of the sum total of the parts.

If one wants to interpret this as political music, may they use the broader interpretation of systems striving for perfection... and arriving at the ideal; finding common denominators of (tonal) systems (pentatonic C, D, E, G, A) from which a structure of consonant movement within can build to peace.

Gloria Coates