Riffraction is a triple pun: the work is based on riffs with pop/funk-inspired rhythmic inflections; these riffs are progressively distorted by processes analogous to the way light is refracted when it travels through a medium of differing densities, like glass or water; and all this leads to plenty of musical action.
In spirit, Riffraction is a scherzo, though one who’s form and temperament is twice interrupted. Three brisk riff-based sections are separated by two hovering interludes, darker in character and offering temporary respite from the otherwise manic surface energy. The clarinet is often featured as a virtuoso soloist, with the piano and string quartet at times purely accompanimental, as though converging into a multi-limbed single instrument. At other times all six instruments are equal partners in polyrhythmic and contrapuntal textures.
A driving factor in composing this piece was squeezing more out of less - for example, with the exception of parts of the interludes, the work is based on the same scale throughout. And often one riff will have derived from an earlier one, rather than presenting entirely new material. For each section, the incessant repetition and gradual metamorphosis of each riff offers a kaleidoscopic viewing of a persistent musical object, fundamentally the same and yet apparently ever different.
- Notes by the composer