Fault Line

for Ensemble

Shulamit Ran

Duration: 00:15:00
Publisher: Theodore Presser Company
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

As a composer, my first preoccupation as I write my music is to create a ?living organism? made of sound and time, an object of beauty and meaning (all subjective terms, to be sure, yet ones in the viability of which I must have full conviction and faith). I strive to write music that feels urgent and necessary. And while it is possible and valid to speak of a work of art purely in terms of its construction, it is my hope that when all is said and done, the work transcends the means through which it is made, becoming a human experience for those sharing it with me ? performers and listeners.

I chose the title Fault Line as a metaphor for the volatility of human existence. Underneath even the most seemingly orderly of lives, fault lines lie, and although these may be totally invisible at the surface, they can, and do, erupt with the power to shutter and change all. Fault Line may be heard as a journey of a life, with all of its exuberance, energy, despair, triumphs and losses, wonder, brashness, and the grace of great tenderness.

In three interlocking sections, the work opens in a manner both resonant and deliberate, with the distance bounded by the adjacent notes F & G gradually expanding into larger cycles of growing activity. This first large section of the work is bright and rich sounding, highlighting various ensemble combinations as they move in and out of full tutti textures. It is the much sparser, more lyrical and transparent middle portion of the work, replete with solo lines, that transforms Fault Line?s course, with darker undercurrents assuming a progressively more prominent role. A line will sometimes appear twice, the second time not only altered in musical detail but also in character and intent. An important solo violin line in the upper range, when first heard, reminds one of a perfectly clear sky, as clear as it is rare. When it returns later on sung by soprano, while still dream-like, this line, now transposed, also has a much more achingly human quality to it. An E( clarinet line, pleading and expressive already in its first presentation, comes back a step higher, to be played with greater urgency yet. And so on. The third and last large section begins with strident brass and timpani chords, gradually building into the work?s most intense stretch, with tutti and solo lines merging together. The work?s opening line briefly comes back much transformed, in no way a recapitulation but rather alluding to the continuous thread of this journey, leading to a the final climax which then soon disintegrates into hushed silence.

The work was first intended to be a purely instrumental work for an ensemble of fifteen players. Much later in the process of composition I found myself integrating a vocal part into the scheme of the work, though a performance version where the vocal line is taken by other instruments (solo violin, trumpet, and oboe in turn) is also available. While mostly in vocalise style (wordless singing), my love for the voice pronouncing consonants led me to integrate a text line as well for the brief appearance of the voice. It is a line which seemed especially appropriate, from Shakespeare?s Othello (final act), a longer segment of which I set in an earlier work, Ensembles for 17, composed in 1975.

Fault Line was begun in May 2005 and completed in late February, 2006.

Additional Information

Commission Commissioned by MusicNOW, Chicago Symphony Orchestra Augusta Read Thomas, composer-in-residence, Cliff Colnot, principal conductor
Composition Date 2005-2006
Orchestration Solo Sop.(opt.); 1(dbl. Picc.) 1(dbl.E.H.) 2(dbl.E-flat Cl., dbl.B.Cl.) 0 - 1 1 1 0; 2Perc. Pno. Str.(
Premiere May 8th, 2006 MusicNow, conducted by Cliff Colnot. Orchestra Hall, Chicago

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