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Ciphers and Constellations

string orchestra with electronics (2016)

Live recording—03.23.16
The String Orchestra of Brooklyn at Roulette, New York, NY

instrumentation (minimum


Duration: 11 minutes
Commissioned by: The String Orchestra of Brooklyn
Premiere: March 23, 2016
The String Orchestra of Brooklyn at Roulette, Brooklyn, NY
Eli Spindel, conductor

program note

The title Ciphers and Constellations is a fragment from a notebook of the artist Joan Miró. He had written down a number of potential titles for his paintings, and this one is from a list regarding his Constellations series; the complete written phrase is “Ciphers and Constellations in Love with a Woman.” The series, which consists of 23 small paintings, is a reaction to the artist’s escape from France in 1939 just before the outbreak of World War II. He states that at that time, his intense urge to flee the difficult realities of life led to him embracing new sources of inspiration for his art such as night, music, and stars.

This composition for string orchestra with electronics translates some of the visual concepts from the Constellations paintings into a musical format. A melody played non-vibrato by the strings serves as a thread running through the piece, periodically enveloped by thick clouds of bustling tremolos and pulsing rhythmic material. The electronic part, created exclusively from processed string instrument recordings, winds a pathway around the acoustic material—dancing back and forth from background to foreground, slipping into empty spaces, occasionally clashing with the activity at hand, and transforming the large-scale view of the musical landscape.

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