All Tonics (2021)
for
Chamber Orchestra

by
Robert Morris

Program Notes

All Tonics for a chamber ensemble of 13 instruments has affinities with my 1973 composition, Not Lilacs, a quartet for jazz instruments. Not Lilacs was a breakthrough piece for me but its compositional surface is very different from All Tonics. The connection is to the ordered hexachord used in Not Lilacs, which has some deep structural properties, and can be registered as a very beautiful combination of tones. The way I used the hexachord produces 200 fragments of music which sequenced to produce a sort of timbral kaleidoscope. A different texture sets-off the timbral flux, in which the whole ensemble plays the hexachords vertically to produce something like arpeggiated chords.

I liked the title All Tonics because it describes the character of so-called atonal music in a positive way: not a series of dissonants, but a series of notes, each of which is its own tonic.