The Theory of Motion

Year: 2023 | Duration: 13′ | Percussion Quartet



The Theory of Motion is an illusory experience and experiment in rhythm that combines elements from jazz, progressive rock, and several post-tonal techniques and genres to create a kaleidoscope of rhythmic development and groove. It draws inspiration from flowing and dynamic forces of nature such as wind and water, as well as mechanical and rigid forces of machines. The work begins with an ambient drone-like soundscape which increases in speed throughout the piece and becomes recontextualized at each stage. In the latter half of the work, the underlying pulse for individual performers is interrupted by instructing one or more performers at a time to accelerate independently from other performers, which creates instability, fluidity, and new resulting patterns. The piece also explores notation for the famous Risset Rhythm, or the infinitely accelerating/decelerating tempo first demonstrated digitally by Jean Claude Risset in the 1960’s. This piece is the first piece to create notation for achieving long form continuous changes in tempo for live performers and features a not-so-infinite ritard of approximately 3-4 minutes in length which concludes the work.


The Theory of Motion was commissioned through a consortium led by Jacob Ottmer and generously funded by the following members:

  • Jacob Ottmer
  • Western Oregon University | Joel Garza
  • University of South Florida | Kevin von Kampen
  • Northwestern State University | Oliver Molina
  • Louisiana State University | Jesse Allison
  • Homegrown Music Ensemble
  • Matthew Bardin
  • Kerem Ergener
  • Mat Keel