The image and concept of the piece is easiest to describe by using the visual images of the Dutch artist M. C. Escher. He made many woodcuts where the whole surface of the picture has a figurative function, often just in black and white. For example, a row of white ducks 'transversing' the painting which are described by black ducks transversing in the opposite direction. In this way the two figures describe each other, so to speak. In this piece, I have approached melody in a similar way: I use a melody which can be framed in rhythmically different groupings - in groups of fours or fives etc- thus creating new hierarchical melodies which grow more and more obvious to the ear. The initial melody then becomes background to the new melody until disappearing, and a new rhythmical pattern is imposed on the second melody, and so forth. Later the different 'rhythm melodies' are woven together, creating a new perceptual image, one that is, at the same time, actually a 'holographic' reproduction of the initial melody. The latter situation is similar to the way Bach makes hidden 3- or 4-part counterpoints in his cello suites by intersecting the parts successively into beautifully interwoven patterns. So typical of him.
My aim in doing this is to produce a texture created by one instrument, but with several different layers and, as a result, several different focal points. I am thus trying to persuade the listener to follow the different layers and when the texture gets too dense, letting the different layers take the lead in turn, like a complex rotating prism or a holographic moving image. The very static sections of the piece are chiefly inspired by the powerful singing of the buddhist-monks of Tibet who are able to relax their vocal chords to such an extent that they create an overpowering deep note, not normally thought to be produced by a human voice. I intuitively felt the potential of imitating this on the cello and found that it was possible to produce tones an octave lower than the natural range of the cello by using a special a special bowing technique. To me these sections also bear a firm relation to the very fast and constantly moving passages, first described, by being static with movement lying, so to speak, within the sound of a few repeated notes.
Figure and Ground Study I was first performed by Mats Olofson at the Numus Festival 1995.