The following program notes are from the "Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music" program for Monday, August 5, 1968.
Mr. Trythall, one of the four Fromm commissioned composers at the 1968 Festival of Contemporary Music, gives a few thoughts on his piece:
"The title, Continuums, is used metaphorically to suggest the continuous, ordered, sequential nature of the musical material. Locally, referential units - recurring rhythmic patterns, significant note cells, harmonies, etc. - are eliminated from the musical surface. In the large form as a consequence of this amorphous material, clearly articulated structural divisions do not exist. There is a continuous flow of musical events all relatively of the same structural weight. This equality does not imply, however, that the events are arbitrary or of a uniform musical character. The articulation and definition of each event as to pitch and rhythmic procedures, textural complexity, etc. depend upon the energies created in the preceding material and are peculiar to that moment in the musical scheme. The flow is progressive. The amount and type of progression may be radically altered, even negated, but this suspension still plays a part in the larger progression of energies.
The work can be divided into four general groupings whose boundaries, however, are necessarily vague. The opening material presents two static characters - the continually changing, regularly-spaced note succession played by the viola and the unmeasured, extended durations of the dyads (played by the winds) which interrupt that figuration. During the first grouping, these elements are juxtaposed and continuously expanded until they lose definition and become orchestrated noises. In the latter part of the first grouping and early part of the second, the block-like, static nature of the opening material returns with frequent contrasts of timbre, dynamics, pitch construction, rhythmic activity, etc. As the second grouping progresses, the events become more evenly spaced and are characterized by a gradual increase in the articulation of the material. In the third grouping, played almost entirely by the strings - most particularly the celli, the rate of change of events is extremely slow, practically eliminating a sense of progression. The fourth grouping is texturally the most complex. Levels of relief are obtained by juxtaposing musical materials of different levels of amorphousness. Following the textural high-point, there is a steady thinning of density. The final measures restore the evenly-spaced rhythm of the beginning and are of a similar static nature.
I would remind the listener that these four general groupings are for simplified descriptive convenience only. They should not be felt as separate entities, but rather as shadings of one continuous fifteen-minute phrase. Continuums is dedicated to Roger Sessions."
Mr. Trythall was born in 1939 in Knoxville, Tennessee. He attended the University of Tennessee where he studied composition with David Van Vactor and Princeton University where he studied with Roger Sessions, Milton Babbitt, Edward Cone and Earl Kim. In 1960, as a student at Tanglewood, he studied composition with Leon Kirchner. He has received a Fulbright fellowship to Germany, where he studied with Boris Blacher, the Rome Prize, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. His compositions include several orchestra pieces which have been performed by the Rome Radio Orchestra - Composition for Piano and Orchestra, Penelope's Monologue, Costruzione for Orchestra - and chamber music. Mr. Trythall also appears frequently as a pianist.