Theofanidis: Rainbow Body

Vectoral Analysis by Diego Barbosa-Vásquez

Theofanidis: Rainbow Body

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Historical Background

The piece is another example of the postmodernist style. It combines the advances of the previous years with the spiritualism approach to the sounds that can be linked to La Monte Young thoughts. Examples of it are the electronic influence in the acoustic sounds to create orchestration techniques (traduced here in wet acoustic orchestration) – an approach that can be linked to Stockhausen too-, and the Buddhist approach to sounds that can explain the tintinnabulation and long sounds of Arvo Part too.

Overview, Structure, and Texture

Following the postmodernist styles that thinks in the audience interaction with the piece, the work is easier to understand due to two aspects. First, the use of a structure based in ritornello forms. The main theme is used through the piece three times (C-F, O-R, GG-End) to create coherences. In addition, this structure creates correlated sections that are organized to give sense to the repetition of the main theme. Some examples are the beginning of the piece to C that can be seen as the introduction, or Z to GG as the transitional section that brings the piece to the last repetition of the main theme in gran fortissimo. Second, despite the fact of the “wet acoustic” orchestration technique, the texture is based in a melody with accompaniment of longer notes. A similar procedures used by the renaissance for the chants and thus a possible linked with Arvo Part as an influence.

Orchestration Techniques

The piece is written to full orchestra probably influenced by the relation with the Houston Symphony as a commissioned work. The most remarkable element as this part is the “wet acoustic” orchestration technique. This technique tries to emulate, by orchestration procedures, a reverberant acoustic. An instrument keeps the original melody while others are used to duplicate each note of the horizontal changes of the melody but keeping each note for a while. A good example of this technique is at the letter E where the strings and woodwinds have the melody where the brasses are duplicating with long notes each horizontal change keeping those even with other melodic notes are sounding. This development can be linked to two probably influencers. First the electronic influence that the composer could receive in its training as musician. The composer now is trying to replicate the manipulation of sounds but in an acoustical way. Second, connected with La Monte Young thoughts and the spiritual trend, the Arvo Part long notes of the bells and the long notes of La Monte Young.

Basic Techniques

The piece is base in three main basic techniques. First, the wet orchestration technique. Despite the fact that the horizontal and vertical structures are not based in it, it affects how the sounds are produced, how the instruments are used and creates a specific sonority unique in this piece. Second, the monodic structure of the horizontal models that defines the pitches of the work. Third, the triadic structure that creates the open sound probably linked to Copland or La Monte Young, with some approaches of polytonality linked to Stravinsky.

Vertical Models

Vertical models are primarily based in triadic structures of thirds and fifths. Those structures can be seen in letter G with the Bb Db and F. Vertical organizations that are linked with the post-modernist composers as Arvo Part, Lauridsen or Copland. In addition, some places of the piece are organizing the vertical models in almost polytonal structures that can be linked to the Stravinsky vertical approaches. Example of it can be seen in bar F with the strings in a clear Eb chord where the right hand of piano and woodwinds are doing a Ab chord. Furthermore, the wet orchestration technique creates clusters that are not part of the vertical construction of the piece but creates sounds that must be taken in care in a vertical analysis. Those are a clear influence of the electronic influence in the piece manipulating the sounds probably linked o Stockhausen.

Horizontal Models

As is described by the author the horizontal models are based in the Hildegard von Bingen’s Ave Maria, o auctrix vite' a renaissance chant. This gives to us a clue that the horizontal approaches of the primarily melodies are based in modes and cantus firmus melody structures. A clue that is confirmed analyzing letter C (theme A) where the chant can be seen as a mixolydian B with a structure that have the cantus firmus characteristics. Balance, variety, continue movement with compensated leaps and a sense of totality due to the returning to the B. In addition to this, through the piece, those horizontal movements are elongated in durations and notes with the theme development. A procedure that can be seen in the phrase of 12 bars (at bars 10-22 of letter C) related with the original in letter C of just 9 bars. Those kind of procedures can be linked as La Monte Young and Arvo Part influences due to the returning to the renascence and basic structures of melodic constructions and continue developments by steps.


The style of this composer is postmodernism with a clear influence of the audience understanding of the piece based in three aspects. First, the ritornello structure to remember the primarily melodies, linked to La Mount and Arvo Part. Second, the horizontal models based in modal structures linked again to Arvo Part. Third, vertical approaches of thirds linked to Copland or even Stravinsky due to the quasi polytonal structures. In addition is important to highlight the electronic influences that can be linked to Stockhausen in terms of the acoustic care with the wet orchestration technique.

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