Pattern 35

Since I really want to bring “In C” to life for the readers of this blog, I am going to focus periodically on individual patterns and groups of patterns with audio samples to give you more of a sense of the tonal interplay that is going on in this work. I mentioned in a previous post that Pattern 7 is a unique pattern amongst the 53 due to the amount of space it contains. There is one other pattern that shares this attribute with Pattern 7, in addition to several signifying attributes of it’s own.

Indeed, it is Pattern 35 of “In C” that is truly a pattern unlike all the rest. It is the longest pattern at 64 pulses; twice as long as the next longest pattern. It contains both the F# and the Bb, which are the only accidentals in the entire piece. And, it introduces a movement into the C octave above middle C. Up to this point the notes in the patterns have only gone as high as the C above middle C. Now we move into that upper harmonic range and elevate the tonal center of the final patterns. Pattern 35 stretches out with lots of space. Even on the page, it stretches the entire length of the sheet of music.

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There, you can see it, the fourth staff from the bottom, Pattern 35 meandering across the page. You will notice that in addition to the Lydian Dominant mode brought in with the sharped 4th, flatted 7th, the phrase also contains the naturals of both those tones. Keith Potter, who does a deep analysis of “In C” in his book, Four Musical Minimalists, says this of Pattern 35:

“It comes as no suprise to realise that ‘In C’s’ single real melody comes not only at the point of maximum modal conflict, but also almost at the exact point of the Golden Section (module 35 being as close to two thirds of the way through the work’s fifty-three modules as it is possible to come).”

When I first began studying “In C” I calculated Pattern 35 as a signifigant line in the piece using PHI in relation to the number of patterns – 53. Interesting too that they are the same numbers reversed.

With all of these pointers leading back to Pattern 35, can we speculate on the signifigance of Pattern 35? Potter posits that it is a melody which he defines as an “extended lyrical utterance.” I like his use of the word “utterance” as this line does feel like a statement. Perhaps it functions as summary and transition statement showing us where we have been and where we are going? Perhaps it is simply a stone skipping across a pond? Or a Pied Piper leading the rest of us astray? Whatever way one might read Pattern 35 at any given moment, it stands out as an invitation to solo or accompany, to whisper or moan, to skip or drag. What is clear is- however you play this line -you want to make a statement!

It is interesting to look at the patterns that surround Pattern 35. Patterns 31,33 and 34 invert and extend the melodic content while mimicing the 16th note rhythmic pattern that launches Pattern 35. Patterns 36 through 41, all mimic the melodic and rhythmic content of that same beginning spot. So there are multiple soundings of the same four notes in 16th note loops creating the sound bed around this quirky little solo line. This sound bed is a great example of the built in accumulated lag within this piece. Those four notes are being flung hither and yon in the patterns surrounding Pattern 35. Listen closely at 6 minutes to hear some interesting harmonic artifacts creating a whole other part in the mix.

This recording begins with Patterns 31 and 32 coming in simultaneously. Pattern 32 adds a rhythmic variant that creates interest among all the other accumulating tones, so I kept that pattern fairly constant throughout the movement from one side of Pattern 35 to the other. Also I discovered that once Pattern 35 has been introduced powerfully into the mix, all other voicings of the pattern can be varied in dynamics. I liked the pattern blended in and in the background. Then I layered Pattern 35 into a 3 voice lag. I enjoyed playing around with the dynamics by bringing a pattern in strong and then fading back into the mix, which was quite effective in creating movement. While this post started out focused on an individual pattern, we end up with a look at the interplay amongst Patterns 31 through 41. This is an important grouping of patterns in the overall movement of “In C.”

While I was working through this section of the piece, I moved on into Patterns 42 and 43. Here is the point where I had to start recording:

I found the harmonics of that moment so very moving. “In C” is like musical DNA, it has all these strands and no matter how you pull them apart they find their way back together in most cohesive and interesting ways. Who knows if the beautiful song heard here will ever be created again? A certain confluence of sonic energy vibrates this moment in time and then disappears, leaving a trace, an imprint of potential future manifestation, perhaps?

I hope so!

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