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for orchestra

Tetrahedron is my first composition for full orchestra. The work may be considered a one-movement symphony. The composition is the result of a musical reflection and search for my personal 'beloved harmonies' during one year, which originated from completely intuitive sounds. Just like my former compositions the first sketches were a pure intuitive matter in this piece. Unfortunately this wasn’t enough to achieve a larger compositional entity, which was necessary for a work of this shape.

Eventually the intuitively chosen chords could be reduced to four big families of modes, which form the basics of the harmonic structure in the piece, mainly used as harmonic fields. One could speak of four "sound universes", each of them representing a specific sound that is audibly recognizable. This can be compared with the different tonalities or keys you hear in tonal music.

Because I wanted to proceed with the evolution of my former compositions, this symphony is also based on musical layers that evolve uninterruptedly and overlap. It is obvious that the aforementioned harmonies not only occur in a static way, but are rather developing.

To achieve this, each of the four harmonies ought to be able to transform into one another at any time in the piece. It was essential to establish a permanent interaction between those four elements. Trying to make a visualization of that process, only one (geometrical) figure would fit into that idea: the tetrahedre (or tetrahedron), coincidentally being a symbol for 'harmony' in ancient times. The tetrahedron is a geometrical figure, consisting of four points in which every point is connected to all the other points. The result is a three-dimensional pyramid with a triangular base.

By replacing these four points into the four basic chords or modes of Tetrahedron, a harmonic plan of the whole composition is revealed, comparable with the circle of fifths (being the harmonical base in tonal music). The difference with the circle of fifths is that the chords of Tetrahedron are not tonal, but - in my opinion - have a comparable 'consonant' value thanks to their intuitive origin.

It must be clearly understood that this theoretical background has never been an end in itself in my compositions. The work got its title after I wrote the very last note of it. According to me music only serves one target: the sound! Tetrahedron remains a composition that gives musical expression to what I really like to hear and is the result of a full year of reflection on the essential sounds that matter for me.


Antwerp Symphony Orchestra, cond. Martyn Brabbins

16 minutes
  • Piccolo
  • Flute
  • Flute / Piccolo / Alto Flute
  • 2 Oboes
  • Oboe / Cor Anglais
  • Clarinet in Bb
  • Clarinet in Eb
  • Clarinet in Bb / Bass Clarinet in Bb
  • 2 Bassoons
  • Contrabassoon
  • 4 Horns in F
  • 3 Trumpets in C
  • 3 Trombones (3. bass trombone)
  • Tuba in F
  • Percussion (3 players)
  • Harp
  • Violins 1 (16)
  • Violins 2 (14)
  • Violas (12)
  • Violoncelli (10)
  • Double Basses (8)
Commissioned by
Royal Flemish Philharmonic


Concertgebouw, Bruges,
Antwerp Symphony Orchestra, cond. Martyn Brabbins