Delirium is a grade 6 piece for large wind ensemble that was completed in April of 2011 as my master’s thesis project at ASU.  It synthesizes compositional techniques to generate unique juxtapositions of contrasting musical elements. Although the composition begins tonally, chromatic alterations gradually shift the melodic content outside of the tonal center. In addition to changes in the melody, octatonic, chromatic, and synthetic scales and quartal and quintal harmonies are progressively introduced throughout the piece to add color and create dissonance.

Delirium contains four primary sections that are all related by chromatic mediant. The subdivisions of the first part create abrupt transitions between contrasting material, evocative of the symptoms of delirium. As each sub-section progresses, the A minor tonality of the opening gradually gives way to increased chromaticism and dissonance. The next area transitions to C minor and begins to feature octatonic scales, secundal harmonies, and chromatic flourishes more prominently.

The full sound of the ensemble then drops to solo instruments in the third section, now in G# minor, where the elements of the previous section are built upon with the addition of synthetic scales and quartal harmonies. The last division, before the recapitulation of the opening material, provides a drastic change in atmosphere as the chromatic elements from before are removed and the tense sound of the quartal harmonies are replaced with quintal sonorities and a more tonal melody.

The tonality of this final section is used to return to the opening material. After an incomplete recapitulation, the descending motive that is used throughout the piece, which can be found in measure 61 in the flutes, is inverted and layered by minor 3rds. This inverted figure builds to the same sonority found in measure 138, before ending on an F# chord, a minor third away from the A minor tonal center of the opening and where the piece seems like it should end.

Copyright © 2018 by Jeremy Bell