Image Unfolding was written during 2010 for the violinist Peter Sheppard Skaerved. Peter asked me to write a piece for him responding in some way to the cycle of Tartini solo sonatas which he was to perform over the summer and autumn of 2010.
Whilst thinking about, and sketching, very preliminary ideas for the piece, I happened to read a paper by composer Julian Anderson on the music of Tristan Murail. This discussed, amongst other things, the way Murail uses sum and difference tones to generate the musical material in his piece, Ethers. As I had just read that Tartini (or so it is said) ‘discovered’ sum and distance tones, this led to the creation of a piece that owes something to both composers, drawn together by this connection.
Although I had only incorporated borrowed material into a piece once before, the temptation here to use some material from the Tartini sonatas was strong. However, with thirty sonatas to choose from there was a lot of thinking to do before I settled on the third movement of Sonata no. 10. Analysis of this movement provided me with five distinct fragments – each with their own characteristics. These five fragments comprise the material for the piece.
The way I use these fragments over the course of the piece owes something to Murail, particularly in the way the material is compressed and then unravelled. Gradually, over the course of the piece, the original Tartini fragments are unfolded from the material one by one, in the same way that one might stretch out a piece of plasticine to reveal a pattern, or words.
After a short introduction there are five distinct sections, each unfolding one of the five fragments. After the entire material (the ‘Image’) is finally present, the short coda then focuses on the two notes central to the piece, G and A, drawing out some of the properties of the sounds, before concluding.
Whilst writing this piece, I was very conscious of Tartini’s statement ‘to play well, it is necessary to sing well’. Even during complex passages I aimed to let the natural sound of the violin through, in particular involving use of open strings.
Elizabeth Winters (2010)