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Aural Tectonics: Fragments, Shards, and Jagged Little Pieces

Kelly-Marie Murphy
15 min

Some objects, either in art or in the physical world, are made up of smaller elements which have come together by accident or design. Tectonics is the study of how the object is constructed. One of the more familiar applications is related to geology: the Earth’s crust is not a solid mass, rather, it is a drifting collection of individual pieces. In a creative effort, there are often only small fragments of ideas which coalesce over time, arriving at a work that may or may not be what was originally imagined, but is the practical realization of the artistic endeavor.

When I began writing a solo piece for Colleen Athparia, it seemed that the music was coming in very small fragments without any clear relationships. It was only after I collected all of the different fragments together that I realized what it was they had in common: my varied experience with the piano – classical, jazz, and improvisation.

Aural Tectonics: Fragments, Shards, and Jagged Little Pieces was commissioned by the CBC for Colleen Athparia. It was written between March and June of 1999 and lasts approximately 15 minutes. The piece is divided into three movements. The first movement is fast and rhythmic, characterized by changing metres and marcato chords. The second movement is slow and expressive with a chorale-like idea emerging between recurring vertical structures. The last movement is a vigorous finale; fast, energetic, and frenzied. It incorporates some of the material from the previous two movements.

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