Entrainment: Oboe, Vibraphone, & Thai Gongs

Guy Bunce (Photographer)

Research output: Non-textual formComposition


Entrainment is the process by which two oscillating systems, which have different periods when they function independently, assume the same period when interacting. The principle of entrainment is universal, appearing in chemistry, pharmacology, biology, medicine, psychology, sociology, astronomy, architecture to name but a few.

This piece explores the entrainment of tempo with two initially diverse tempo structures synchronising after a period of four minutes. At the start of the score the oboe begins at 137 bpm and the percussionist at 63 bpm. Over the course of the four minutes the percussionist speeds up whilst the oboist slows down resulting in the tempi synchronising at four minutes. After four minutes the two instruments begin a discourse in unison (rhythmically, melodically, and dynamically): the musical equivalent of total synchronisation. In the final section of the piece the parts diverge with the percussionist slowing down and the oboe part maintaining its speed.

As with many of my pieces, the starting point for Entrainment was an external source, in this case the song Time by Pink Floyd. The rhythmic lines throughout Entrainment are based on the rhythm to the bass line of the first part of Time. This can be clearly seen in the opening in which the oboe part employs this rhythm.

Harmonically Entrainment consists of a series of key centres whose period is determined by points within the four minutes where either of the two independent parts briefly synchronise at the semiquaver level with the unit of a second. At each of these points (which become more frequent as the piece progresses), the harmonic centre changes. The harmonic centres relate directly to the chord structure of Pink Floyd’s Time: at each point where either part synchronises with seconds the harmonic centre in both parts moves one chord through Time’s chord sequence. At 2’ 19’’ the percussion and oboe part synchronise (albeit briefly) for the first time. This event was used to mark the start of more polytonal harmony as both instruments from this point forward begin their own cycles through the Time chords.

Throughout the piece, points of synchronisation are highlighted musically.

A CD is attached that contains a dual click track for the first four minutes of the piece. The click track is arranged so that the oboe click is on the left channel and the percussion click is on the right. An alternative click track (track 3) is also provided using a different sound (a beep). Track 2 contains 8 minutes of silence.

The performers should wear the headphone in one ear which corresponds to the track of their part. The dual click track can then be played on a single CD player with the output going to both sets of head phones using a headphone splitter or other device. Alternatively, the wave files can be converted to mp3 and put on either two iPods or Mp3 players. The players will then have to syncronise the beginnings of each track.

It is possible to play the piece without the use of the click track(s). If this is the case, performers should use the metronome markings and general layout of the score to aid performance. It is advisable that one player (possibly the oboist) sets the tempo and tempo changes, and the other player follows.

It was not always possible to represent accurately the relationship between the two parts in the score. Arrows have been added on the score to show points of synchronisation where the score layout differs.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherEnigma Publishing
Media of outputCD
Size8 mins
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2009

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