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Indiana University New Music Ensemble & Ensemble Alternance | From Perseus Cluster: Chamber Music By P. Q. Phan

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From Perseus Cluster: Chamber Music By P. Q. Phan

by Indiana University New Music Ensemble & Ensemble Alternance

The works in this CD reflect Phan's belief that music is also a science. It is true that music is a reflection of pure human expression; however, science and logic can also inspire and construct music to its full potential.
Genre: Classical: Contemporary
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. AC/DC: AC
IU New Music Ensemble
8:24 $0.99
2. AC/DC: DC
IU New Music Ensemble
9:39 $0.99
3. Movement
Ensemble Alternance
10:12 $0.99
4. From Perseus Cluster
IU New Music Ensemble
18:13 $0.99
5. Kaleidosonicon
IU New Music Ensemble
20:46 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes

P. Q. PHAN was born in 1962 in Vietnam. He became interested in music while studying architecture
in 1978 and taught himself to play the piano and compose. In 1982, he immigrated to the United States and began his formal musical training.

Phan’s music has been performed throughout America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. He has received numerous commissions, including from the Kronos Quartet, the American Composers Orchestra, the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, Ensemble Alternance, the First Music 8–New York Youth Symphony, Indiana University, etc. His music covers solo work to grand opera. His works have been performed by the Kronos Quartet, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the Radio France, Ensemble Modern, the American Composers Orchestra, the Cincinnati Orchestra, the St. Louis Orchestra–Chamber Group, the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, the Charleston Symphony, the Greater East Lansing Symphony, the Sinfonia da Camera, Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, the New York Youth Symphony, and others. Phan has received several awards, fellowships, and residencies, including a Rome Prize. He has often appeared as guest composer and professor in Asia. His recorded works can be found on the Nonesuch and New World labels.
Phan is currently associate professor of music composition at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, in Bloomington, Ind. He previously held faculty positions at the University of Illinois at Champaign–Urbana and Cleveland State University.


Like electricity, AC/DC represents both alternating and direct currents, harmonically, structurally, and rhythmically, in two contrasting sections. The first section, AC, utilizes a fixed harmonic language, one which is derived from an alternately expanded “row” of a five-tone cell in the upper and lower registers. This section is divided in two subsections in which the harmonic languages are based on the two different modes. Each subsection then elevates itself with a transposition derived from its mode. On a more global level, the AC section explores possibilities using fixed harmonic derivations from different modes and harmonic transposition. This section also displays alternating rhythmic textures in different instrumental families. A wide range of organic expansions are based on a small musical cell.

Like the AC section, the DC section’s structure is based on and expanded from a motivic idea. However, the approach and growth of this section is more direct. The piano part forms a skeletal structure for the entire section. Its harmonic language expands from simple to more complex sonic combinations. In tandem with the piano, the percussion part outlines transcendental sonorities from low to high and from dark to bright. Other instrumental families display harmonic spectra, which derive from one or more tones in contrapuntal realizations triggered by the piano. These partials alternately reinforce the upper or lower partials. Quarter-tones occasionally appear, to help approximate just intonation.
Aesthetically speaking, then, AC/DC represents the composer’s cultural duality. Although the musical aspects from the two sections of AC/DC are different, they complement each other. Almost incomplete within themselves; they are fully enriched because of their coexistence.

The work was written for and dedicated to Edwin London and the Cleveland Chamber Symphony.


Movement is inspired by the concept of motions in sound. The ensemble of flute, clarinet, harp, violin, and cello offers a wide spectrum of timbres from which to create nuances, textures, movements, and sonorities. However, the instruments intertwine to create a single, larger “instrument,” instead of functioning as different voices in a typical
contrapuntal approach. Microtones are used to readjust the artificial equal temperament to an approximation of the harmonic series, but also to create distinctive timbral combinations. The work is a gradual sonic explosion, leading from a delicate introverted emotion to an outburst of extraverted emotion. The composition was written for Ensemble Alternance and is dedicated to the composer Ton That Tiet.


“From the Perseus Cluster of galaxies, a monstrous supermassive black hole hums a deep bass of Bb 57 octaves
below the middle C (said Andrew Fabian, Sept. 9, 2003) ... As the black hole pulls material in, he said, it also creates jets of
material shooting out above and below it, and it is these powerful jets that create the pressure that creates the sound waves.” (Associated Press)

The above scientific facts and quotation best describe the inspirations for my composition From Perseus Cluster. This composition is a reflection of my imagination of this incredible phenomenon, where sound can be created through the fluctuation and conflict among types of non-solid matter. Gravitating around the main tone of Bb, the sonic scheme of the composition travels from afar to an up-close explosion, utilizing the fullest possible spectrum.



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