Algebra on FIRE
for 19 players and computer
(1991)

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Total duration: 22 mins

The structure of much European music has been based around pitch, that is to say, harmony and/or melody. In Algebra on FIRE I used rhythm to generate the form and structure of the piece. The title of the pieces refers to the 2 types of rhythms which are present in the piece: a) rational rhythms (Algebra) and irrational rhythms (FIRE).

The piece begins by presenting a simple rhythmic fabric which is pulsed, rational, 'algebraic' and easy to follow. The introduction and gradual replacement of the original algebraic structure by accelerating pulses, which are, relatively speaking irrational, is the very process of which the piece is made. I think of it as of an algebraic fabric being burnt -eaten away- by fire. This process controls and regulates the overall form.. The fire grows and retreats and grows again. Yet, there is no final goal. The algebra never gets totally consumed by the fire. In other words there is no end.

Once I had set this process in motion, I proceeded to compose following my intuition, breaking my own rules, ultimately writing the music that exited my imagination. My musical decisions in the end were taken for dramatic reason and the rhythmic structure described above worked as a 'container', a physiological framework that helped my mind work both orderly and in freedom.

Algebra on FIRE was commissioned by IRCAM and was premiered at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, on May 23 1991. The piece was performed by the ensemble l'Itineraire conducted by Mark Foster The computer part was produced at IRCAM during 1990.

A.V.