Two pitched percussion instruments, any bass instrument.
Commissioned by Ensemble Offspring for their Music to Infinity tour. In his programme notes, Damien Ricketson wrote:
Cycles and Circles by Australian composer James Humberstone has been especially commissioned for this concert. The work is a welcome addition to a growing body of Ensemble Offspring repertoire that explores facets of openness. The work can be performed on two unspecified pitched percussion instruments, an unspecified bass instrument and programmable music boxes (that respond to a pre-punched scroll similar to a pianola). In this version, the delicate twinkle of the music boxes is mirrored in the rather unusual soundworld of pitched ceramic bowls (the cheap Chinese variety that can be found in most two-dollar shops) and a bass clarinet. Another facet of openness relates to the harmonic colour of the work. The melodic material is conceived as simple contours (a sequence of scale degrees) rather than specific pitches.
As such, the melodies may be rendered into a variety of possible modes at the discretion of the performers. Further, each musician plays their repeated melodic cells in a pattern of their own choosing free to meander away from (and even deliberately out of time with) their fellow ensemble members. The correspondence of pitches and rhythms gently shift in an out of focus like a delicate machine holding onto a fragile sense of synchronicity.
This work is published by the Australian Music Centre. In addition, a related education kit providing musicological background and listening and composition exercises is available at the Ensemble Offspring website.