Cheung: Dystemporal


Commissioned by the Ensemble Intercontemporain.

First performance on 4 October, 2012, by the Ensemble Intercontemporain, conducted by Susanna Mälkki, at the Centre Pompidou, Paris. Dedicated to Susanna Mälkki and the musicians of the Ensemble Intercontemporain.

“The title Dystemporal refers to the disorienting and distorted way in which time is manipulated and perceived in the work. The form of the first section is a kind of spiral, with materials that trace back onto themselves, then continually expand. We hear distinct rhythmic profiles and harmonies reappearing next to different grooves each time. Each event is locked into a rhythmic regularity, only to be disrupted by the next change. Thus, it is a series of grooves that never settles into a groove. In its rhythmic project, it is related to an earlier piece from 2008 called Color Coordinate(s), which uses the ideas of rhythmic mirrors throughout.

After a transition in “smoother” time, the final section deals mostly with rhythmic and temporal cycles, often canon-like, of the same material moving at different rates – and sometimes in different tunings. With this, one can sense a kinship with Nancarrow’s temporal canons. It happens to be the centennial year of Nancarrow’s birth, and I count him as an important influence.

The final moments of the piece attempt a kind of imagined orchestration of Henry Cowell’s “Rhythmicon,” a machine designed by Léon Theremin to re-create Cowell’s theories about the unification of overtone and rhythmic ratios, a true rhythmic and harmonic “consonance” resolving the overall arrhythmic dissonance that permeates the piece.”

Anthony Cheung
September 2012