Andrew Hill's Dripsody analysis

Analyst's name: 
Andrew Hill
Year of analysis: 
Composition title: 

Hugh Le Caine - Dripsody (1955)

In my analysis of this piece I sought to find how it was built structurally. From this I have discovered 7 main component sections.


Section A: The piece begins with a metronomic looped drip at a constant tempo. This lasts for around 29s before fading and disappearing at around 34s.

Section B: Begins at around 4s and consists of high pitched glissandi travelling up and down, this is looped and almost exactly in time with the tempo of section A. This section continues until 29s when it ends abruptly.

Section C: Begins at 7s and consists of three drips looped. These drips are each an octave apart, the first is F7, the second is F6 and the third F5. These loop until fading at around 30s

Section D: Begins at 9s and consists of ‘randomised’ pitches as opposed to the ordered natures of other sections of the work. This section of random pitches are looped and interfere with the perceptual streaming of sections C and B, resulting in a cacophonous seemingly random section of drips. This section ends at around 44s, and so once sections B and C have ended we finally hear section D alone.

Section E: Begins at 38s consisting of Long glissandi predominantly rising, but does also contain some falling at lower amplitude. The glissandi begin separately but soon become dense and overlap. This section fades out at 65s.

At the end of section E a short segment of section C returns quickly followed by a segment of section D. Section C can be heard between 1:05 and 1:08, section D between 1:08 and 1:15. Section F: the final section begins at 1:15 and ends at 1:26. This section resembles that of section C and is likely constructed from a stretched and edited version of this earlier section. All of the pitches are again F (as in section C). The first pitch at 1:15 is F3, the second and third are F5 and F2, and the fourth and fifth (which are looped three times) are F4 and F1.


Analysing the piece in this way has provided some interesting insights into the possible practical realisation of the work. It is clear that some of the sections are related to one another in fairly direct ways, for example section C and section F. The entire piece is made form the sound of a single drip but it is clear that once sections have been completed as building blocs, these sections themselves were then edited and rearranged.

Techniques of perceptual streaming have been utilised in sections of the piece to increase the sense of disorder form previously well ordered sections (section D interferes with our perception of section B and C).

Repetition and reuse of sections provides a clear compositional structure with recapitulation of earlier material leading into the final section. The piece also contains its main glissandi section (E) at 2/3 of its duration, possibly indicating conscious or unconscious the use of the golden section in the structuring of the composition. 


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