Grand Variations for large orchestra
Gottschalk, Arthur W.
Doctor of Musical Arts thesis
Grand Variations is a work for large orchestra built on an original theme and six variations. My primary concerns when composing were communication, continuity, and distortion. To musically communicate an idea repetition is essential, and the type of repetition presented in theme and variations provided what I was looking for. In addition, the fact that the theme will be repeated over and over leads to a built in continuity. The final concern, distortion, may be achieved by pulling away from a more straightforward presentation of the thematic material. Two additional elements played a large role in the work—cyclic forms, and quantum physics. The composition Déserts by Edgard Varese, and the jazz work Nefertiti by Wayne Shorter, both contain strong cyclic features. Nefertiti uses the same melody repeated over and over, while Déserts, on the other hand, repeatedly presents the same musical gestures, and sound objects, but with slight changes to achieve its own cyclic sound world. These two works framed the way that I approached variations, yet are at odds with each other. Through my reading of quantum physics, I found a way to join the two into a working structure, and the book, The Grand Design, by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, helped me to do it. Because of this, I decided early on to honor that influence, and the title Grand Variations reflect that.