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"Tension Cue 13"

Title Tension Cue 13
ComposerF.G.J. Absil
Instrum.Studio Orchestra
DateJanuary 2015
StyleFilm Music
Tempo172 BPM


  • Synthesizer 1-4, Synthesizer Bass (alternative: woodwinds and horns);
  • Trombones 1-3, Bass Tuba;
  • Percussion (4 parts: Bass Drum, Floor Tom, Tamtam, Timpani, Tenor Drum);
  • String section: Violin 1, Violin 2, Viola, Cello, Contrabass.


This short film music cue demonstrates the application of a Fibonacci series to musical composition. The Fibonacci series of increasing integer numbers has the characteristic that each element is the sum of the two previous elements. Fibonacci series are the mathematical equivalent of natural growth processes; in the limit the ratio between two consecutive numbers approaches the Golden Rule. In this musical score example for studio orchestra the Fibonacci series 1-2-3-5-8-13 is applied in the time domain (rhythm and note durations) and pitch domain (melody, theme).

Fibonacci series applied to the time domain

Fibonacci series applied to the time domain
Element Breakdown into quarter and 8th note pair (1'=1/8+1/8) groupings
1: attack (t) or rest (r), duration 1 quarter note
2: (t+t), (t+r), or (r+r)
3: 3=2+1=(1+1')+1, attacks (t+t'+t) or rests (3r)
5: 5=3+2=(2+1)+2=([1+1']+1)+(1'+1), attacks or rests
8: 8=5+3=(3+2)+(2+1)=([2+1]+[1+1])+(2+1)=([1+1'+1]+[1'+1])+(1+1'+1)
13: 13=8+5=(5+3)+(3+2)=([3+2]+[2+1])+([2+1]+2)

This Fibonacci series is applied to the time domain: quarter note attacks (t) and rests (r) use the original and time-reversed (retrograde) form of the series. The complete series adds up to 1+2+3+5+8+13=32 beats, or 8 measures (i.e., the duration of the lead theme). There are occasional 8th notes to prevent rhythmic monotony (see the accents in the table below). The deliberate choice of attack and rest time series creates a feeling of rising tension and suspense towards the end of the cue (more attacks, more shorter durations, decreasing number of rests).


Fibonacci series applied to the pitch domain

Fibonacci series applied to the pitch domain
Interval M(O0) Interval M(I7)
  e   b
-1i - 1i -
  d#   c
2i - -2i -
  f   a#
-3i - 3i -
  d   c#
5i - -5i -
  g   g#
-8i - 8i -
  b   e

When this Fibonacci series is applied to the pitch domain, it yields a theme where both melody and durations are based on the 1-2-3-5-8-(13) series. The sequence of alternating -+-intervals (downward-upward leaps) is deliberate: it creates contrary motion with two opening axes and melodic tension. The theme is used both in original form on the tonic M(O0) (1st scalar degree) and in melodic inversion on the dominant M(I7) (5th scalar degree). These choices strengthen the tonal Em flavour of the example. Both themes are stated twice and combined in a counterpoint setting: m. 1-8, 5-12, 10-17, 15-22. The theme is assigned to unisono synthesizers and violins. The inverted melody suggests the major key near the end, which in the second statement is immediately compensated by the minor third - tonic double stops in m. 22. The overall melodic texture is opening (diverging from the starting pitch), another contributor to the rising tension.

The harmony is very simple with brass and lower strings playing a tonic-dominant pedal point e-b with occasional stepwise changes [b, c, a#, c#], dependent on the current pitch in the lead voice. Note the consecutive string downbows. Dynamics and brass-string doublings near the end also support the rising tension and the climax building.

The instrumentation could easily be adapted for acoustic instruments only. The four synthesizer parts might be played by woodwind instruments (flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon) and horns in F, with occasional octave transpositions.

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