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The Way Out Is Through is an orchestral transcription of inharmonic spectra evolving through time, the sound source being a swell played on a 22-inch ride cymbal in which amplitude moves from very low to very high, with the cymbal then left to vibrate until any remaining sound was virtually inaudible.
A strict process unfolds in which “swelling” is applied to several musical parameters on a microstructural level. This multi-parameter “swell” interrupts the initially low-tension, more timbrally detailed material that dominates. Brief, parallel increases in dynamics, registral spread and harmonic density typify these microstructural swells, along with a purer timbral quality. This material gradually grows in intensity over several minutes to reach a peak at the mid-point of the work, as the overall form of The Way Out Is Through is based on the simple arc-like shape of the cymbal swell’s energy profile. There is a brief percussion interlude interrupting the process at the work’s peak.
It is the transformation in registral spread that perhaps best defines the character of The Way Out Is Through. As it echoes the dominant frequencies produced at various points over the course of the cymbal swell, the work gradually shifts from initially delicate, microtonal woodwind and string textures in mid-register to more chaotic brass-dominated instability as registral spread is pried open. Following a rare unification of the orchestra in the form of several climactic, mountainous chords, the work slowly descends towards silence, arriving in an ominous contrabass landscape that mirrors the low-frequency decay of the cymbal swell.
22 Jun 2014: Performed by the New Zealand School of Music Orchestra and conducted by Vince Hardaker, at the Adam Concert Room, New Zealand School of Music, in Wellington.