By Brian Baumbusch


Hydrogen(2)Oxygen was composed as the first-ever collaboration between the Lightbulb Ensemble and the JACK Quartet. The work draws on the 2012 collaboration between Baumbusch and JACK entitled Bali Alloy, which premiered several works at the Bali Arts Festival in Denpasar written for JACK and a 25-member Balinese Gong Kebyar ensemble. Hydrogen(2)Oxygen comes from an aesthetic of molecular crystallizations, confluences of symmetry and asymmetry represented through non-coincidental rhythmic cells of contrary proportions and immense time cycles, and meanwhile explores the musical potential and the depths of raw expression contained in the contemporary string quartet and the American gamelan. A breakdown of the movements are as follows:

I: Hydrogen (GAS) - this movement explores, in two contrasting sections, four non-coincidental polyrhythms, 7-11-13-17, that are divided between the sixteenplayer ensemble. The first section presents the cycles in their glacial state, slowmoving and unobtrusive. They are catalyzed by two tempo curves that begin to enact a large-scale accelerando through diverging click tracks that the players are listening two via ear-buds. At the height of this accelerando, there is a fission that splits the ensemble into four different tempo curves that progress through different polyrhythmic progressions for the duration of the piece, oscillating through chaos and order. The string quartet plays only open strings and natural harmonics, and the gamelan progresses through a melodic sequence that forms the foundation for the following two movements.

Below is a graphic representing the tempo curves in the piece:

II: Hydrogen (ICE) - this movement explores the color scape of the instrumentarium of the combined ensemble. Portions of the string content are inspired by the second quartet of Ligeti, and the gamelan parts attempt to create Quasi-Kebyar moments, evocative of early 20th century Balinese Kebyar music, though distorted and impeded.

III: Oxygen (AQUA)- this movement represents one full cycle of a four part polyrhythm (5-7-8-9). The string parts and gamelan parts spotlight each of these cycles individually until they combine toward the end of the piece. The piece is inspired by the image of a school of fish on a reef; all change direction in a unified manner but not at the same instant, and their movement seems both asymmetric and symmetric, unpredictable but inevitable.

This piece is dedicated to Michael Tenzer. (notes authored by Brian Baumbusch)