University of South Florida
School of Music

USF New-Music Consortium
March 2011
Lettuce Lake Park
Tampa, FL

ORACLE
Robert Morris, Composer

Baljinder Sekhon, Conductor

Program Notes:

Oracle is a sixty-four-minute composition for singers and instrumentalists including percussion. It is the third of my pieces designed to be played out of doors, in a park or in the country, woods, highlands, and the like. It may be also played indoors.

While a performance of Oracle can be publicly announced to be performed at a certain time and place, it can be performed by invitation so that the each member of the audience has been individually invited to attend. Performances might be held without any announcement so the audience is simply the people who happen to be in and around the performance space. The name of the piece, composer, list of performers with brief program notes can be communicated at the performance on posters and/or fliers.

The structure of Oracle is based on the I-Ching, one of the Chinese Classic texts (compiled c. 1150 b.c.) in which sixty-four hexagrams are used to suggest appropriate actions in response to questions posed by the reader. Each hexagram is a collection of six lines that are either broken (- -) or unbroken (—). The picture at the top of this page shows the hexagrams arranged in two ways: in a circle or in a 8 by 8 square. I use each hexagram to determine the musical features of a corresponding section of the composition; there are therefore 64 sections, each lasting one minute. The order of the hexagrams does not follow the orders given above, but are sequenced so that between two successive hexagrams only one line changes from broken to unbroken or vice versa. This ensures that the music based on the hexagrams flows along smoothly, without great change or abruption.

As in my other outdoor pieces, each section is associated with a basic pitch. Thus there is a sequence of 64 notes that guides the music forward. These notes are overlapped so that, excepting the first and last three sections, each section has not only a basic pitch, but a basic four-note chord that is articulated in various ways. The structure of the basic pitch sequence permits the chords to represent each of the 29 types of four-note harmonies (available in the equal-tempered system of pitches) exactly once in a given order, then in retrograde.

-Robert Morris
ORACLE – Robert Morris, Composer (USF New-Music Consortium)

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