In 2018 andPlay commissioned me to write a new work for them—they had played my miniature Shift Differential for several years—and now wanted a longer piece. I eventually settled on writing a piece in two unequal parts. In my imagination these parts were like panels that could be hung side by side and viewed simultaneously rather than musical movements, which follow one another in time. I was attracted by the tense polarity that exists between two experiences that comment on one another without a concluding/balancing third part (historically, two movement forms are rare—Beethoven’s Op. 111 is an iconic example, and Op. 54, Op. 78 and Op. 90 are also digressions from the more balanced norm).
The two parts of Diptych are very different from each other in both length and character. Part I is ca. 5 ½ minutes while Part II clocks in at 9 ½ minutes. Part I is about sound, touch, and line, and like Shift Differential, exhibits a range of sonority from light, ethereal touch to intense overpressure (this is enacted in the first 1:15, with a movement from niente to white noise and back again). Subtle glissandi slide over each other and delicate lines sinuously snake upwards. Guttural sounds, anxious whispers and pensive harmonies combine to form a tense, contemplative atmosphere.
In contrast to Part I, Part II is more dynamic and gestural. The piece uses tetrachords as fundamental building blocks, combining and recombining them into intricate tapestries of sound. These move through different rates of time, as in the opening, which builds and stretches these chords into dense, warm clusters, and later, when they liquify into rapid scales off of which new melodic gestures leap. In the middle of the piece, the instruments chase and tumble over each other, further complexifying the texture. If Part I is a meditation on sound and experience, Part II is a visceral dance, pulling, stretching and pushing outward.