The image and concept of this piece is easiest to describe by using the visual images of the Dutch artist M. C. Escher. He made many woodcuts where the whole surface of the picture has a figurative function, often just in black and white. For example, a row of white ducks 'transversing' the painting which are described by black ducks transversing in the opposite direction. In this way, the two figures describe each other, so to speak.
In this piece, melody has been approached in a similar way: a melody is used which can be framed in rhythmically different groupings - in groups of fours or fives etc- thus, creating new hierarchical melodies which grow more and more obvious to the ear.
The initial melody then becomes background to the new melody until disappearing, and a new rhythmical pattern is imposed on the second melody, and so forth.
Later the different 'rhythm melodies' are woven together, creating a new perceptual image, one that is, at the same time, actually a 'holographic' reproduction of the initial melody. The latter situation is similar to the way Bach makes hidden 3- or 4-part counterpoints in his Cello suites by intersecting the parts successively into beautifully interwoven patterns.
The very static sections of the piece are chiefly inspired by the powerful singing of the buddhist-monks of Tibet who are able to relax their vocal chords to such an extent that they create an overpowering deep note, not normally thought to be produced by a human voice.
Figure and Ground Study I was first performed by Mats Olofson at the Numus Festival 1995.