About Orbits:

When composing a piece, I usually think of various processes and situations not necessarily related to music, and try to “transfer” them to music.     
In Orbits, I was thinking of a process of transformation, and how one thing could gradually change and become something completely different.  Still, the question remains whether that initial something really becomes something else, or actually just evolves into another version of itself. (For example how a tree becomes from a seed, or an animal from an egg, etc.).  
In Orbits, I use a very limited number of melodic patterns and vary them slightly, achieving, on a large scale, a gradual change in the character of the piece.  The piece starts with indefinite pitches in strings, and sporadic indications of tonal centers.  The opening represents “a possibility,” something unknown, not defined, yet capable of transforming into something definite, with a clear character.  The only firm, concrete musical parameter at the beginning of the piece is the rhythm, grouped in different 2:3 relationships of eight, quarter and half note values.  As the piece progresses, the “rawness” of the initial musical material gradually transforms, and the piece ends with a delicate, polished texture, clear both harmonically and rhythmically.
There are 6 main sections of the piece.  1st section lasts from m.1 – 24; the 2nd starts on page 5, m.25, letter B; the 3rd starts on page 9, m.51, letter E; the 4th starts on page 14, m. 80, letter H; the 5th on page 19, m. 104, letter J; and the last, 6th section starts on page 21, m. 121, letter L.
Structurally, important things happen at the 2/3 of the piece, at the ½ of the piece, and at all other fractions of 3 and 4 – ¼, ¾, 1/3.  Each of the 6 main sections could be subdivided, and again subdivided according to the 2:3 ratio.
The form is derived from itself, and contained in entirety in its smaller parts.  
Measures 1-24 correspond to m. 97-103, and m. 142-151;
Measures 25-50 correspond to m. 104-108;
Measures 51-79 correspond to m. 109-120; and
Measures 80-96 correspond to m. 121-141.

Spirals and mosaics
Presenting transformation in its different stages, from a chaotic start towards a clear ending, required a musical form to convey that idea.  Therefore the spiral organization of musical material of Orbits came naturally, and was also in accord with the initial idea of having a piece built on self-similar simple patterns.  
Spiral is a common “shape” in music, architecture, nature, everywhere around us.  It is represented in math as the Fibonacci Sequence (1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21, 34, 55, 89, etc.), and even more importantly it is the Golden Mean itself.  The ratio of successive Fibonacci numbers gets closer to Golden Ratio number Phi (1.618) as the numbers in the sequence get bigger.  (For example 8:5=1.6, 13:8=1.625, 21:13=1.615, 89:55=1.618, etc.)
I based the form of Orbits on the relationship between 2:3, 3:5, 5:8, etc., all representing the Golden Mean and portions of a spiral.  The focal point of the piece is approximately at its second third, on page 20, m. 112, letter K.  This is a place of disintegration of melodic patterns, rhythm, and harmony, a sort of a (anti-)climax of the piece, a passage into a different realm, a true arrival, as opposed to a formal arrival at the end of the piece.  After that, a new variation of the old material appears (m. 120), like a delayed reflection of the entire transformation that took part since the beginning of the piece.

	Mosaics were another type of organization that I had in mind while working on Orbits.  I treated individual instrumental lines as parts of a large, complex mosaic.  The individual instrumental parts in Orbits are simple, very easy to play.  I imagined them as stone patterns in mosaics, very simple, but crucial in forming the final, optically complex result.  My idea was to build a complex “sound image,” a sound-mosaic, to call it that way, by putting simple, self-similar musical patterns in multiple layers.  I deal with the level of complexity by increasing or decreasing the number of musical layers, as well as by stretching the patterns out (which makes them sound even simpler), or compressing them for increased complexity.  

Harmony and melody   
The emotional content of the piece is carried not by linear successions of sound in individual voices, but through the form, texture and orchestral color, as well as through the power of harmonic tension and release.  
Harmonic language of Orbits is based on the interval of fifth.  Fifth is acoustically presented as a relationship of 2:3, which is an approximation of the Golden Ratio or spiral. 
The general harmonic behavior of the piece follows the same “trend” of indefinite harmonic picture in the beginning, gradually changing into more and more recognizable vertical structures, based on the natural phenomenon of the overtone series.  

Orchestration
I treated the whole orchestra as one large organism, a performing body with individual instruments as parts of that whole.  In a technical sense, all the instruments are of equal importance.  There is no accompaniment versus melodies, no soloists and background – the whole orchestra is one complex instrument. 
When it comes to the technical aspect of playing, I ask performers to do a few unusual things: string players - to press strings hard with the bow, close to the frog, and slide, which would give a listener a sense of not being grounded, perceiving the sound as a mass that needs to be cleared, as in the opening of Orbits.  In the score it says scratch when that technique is to be used.  
I also ask string section to play behind the bridge (on page 21, m. 115, violins, for example).  That produces a very high pitch, a bit squeaky, resembling the sound of an old mechanism in motion.  I used it in a slow section of the piece on page 9, m. 52 and on, and later repeated it (in a different context) on page 21, m. 115.
Piano is to be prepared with metal jewelry, for a fragile and intimate sound at the very end of the piece.  I had in mind some of the interpretations of a solo piano role in piano concerti from the past, in which the solo instrument has been seen as an individual confronting the collective.  In case of Orbits, instead of the solo voice against everyone else – piano solo marks a final stage of the process of transformation, in which from the undefined many a specific One emerges.


Aleksandra Vrebalov
Ann Arbor, MI, 2002


	
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Orbits

Orbits by Dragan Jankov, 2010http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000078334795http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000078334795shapeimage_3_link_0