Composer's note: Plus ça change (“the more things change…”) began as a set of exercises for solo violin, each exploring a contrasting musical character; Those became the movements of Six Humors, a suite which displays the balancing elements that comprise an imaginary musical personae.
While writing the suite, each of its movements suggested multiple accompaniments—some involving orchestra, some piano, some a chamber ensemble. That is, it seemed that the same violin music (though with minor modifications) could be heard in different musical contexts and different accompanying music (not just different instruments) in each case. Plus ça change, is the suite’s music composed for full orchestra.
The violin’s music in Plus ça change is almost identical to the music of the solo suite, though significantly reordered, somewhat expanded, and sometimes repeated. For example, the 3rd movement of the solo suite is a brief (45 seconds) tune in the violin’s high register, a short relief from more rhythmically driving movements around it; but that same music, in what you’ll hear today, is much more present, heard repeatedly with several varying accompaniments. Further, fragments from that tune are used thematically throughout Plus ça change, at times discreetly, at other times quite clearly, almost a refrain.
Much of the harmonic scheme of the piece is heard most clearly in the driving music that closes the piece, after an extended and ‘still’ mood. Here, where the orchestra’s power pushes the violin to a frenzied ending, the violin and the orchestra are each articulating the work’s harmonies, each using different means.
Although there are a number of individually named movements, these are really the large sections of an almost-continuous the piece. You will hear fewer breaks in the musical discourse than might seem evident from that listing, though I hope their characters will be clear.
This music was written for the East Carolina University Symphony, directed by Jorge Richter; and for my friend and colleague, violinist Ara Gregorian.
Certainly, Ara’s versatility and virtuosity presented me the freedom to explore the many characters I’ve tried to use in Plus ça change and which, I hope, takes you on an engaging journey.