Savage Light-Celestial for Chamber Orchestra (2012)
Ensemble includes: Flute, Oboe (doubling English horn), B-flat Clarinet (doubling E-flat Clarinet and Bass Clarinet), 2 B-flat Trumpets, Piano, Percussion (2 Players), 2 Violins, 2 Violas, 2 Cellos, and Double Bass.
The four movements, played without pause, are titled:
1. Dance Unraveling
2. Dance Chthonic
3. Astral Lament - Telluric Passacaglia
4. Infernal Dance Untamed
Composed for Daniel Hege and the Syracuse University Contemporary Music Ensemble and premiered with the composer conducting on March 24, 2012.
Recorded in Setnor Auditorium on May 3, 2012 with the Syracuse University Contemporary Music Ensemble and the composer conducting.
As I composed this piece, I realized that I was more-or-less composing a character study. Two distinct characters emerge in the music, not necessarily interacting, but rather creating a deep contrast at the heart of the piece. The first, second, and fourth movements are cast as one character--this is music that is inherently savage and unyielding, yet does not necessarily take itself seriously. The wild harmonic turns and angular melodic passages act as a demonic dance: hysterical yet apathetic. The third movement changes perspective and takes on a new character, as if observing the music of the other movements in quiet despair and yearning to bring about positive change--ultimately failing. This movement, although generally dark and brooding, constantly surges upwards with optimism, yet is destined to collapse in on itself.
The first movement presents all the melodic and harmonic content for the piece, which is then developed in the second movement as a fugue. As suggested by the title, the third movement is a passacaglia that develops the principal materials of the piece over a repeating ground bass. The emotional breadth and scope of the third movement is much deeper than the other three, which are by nature cold and aggressive.
Several new ideas are introduced in the final movement: an ostinato that first appears in the strings, a melodic line that occurs in parallel minor seconds in the woodwinds, and a disjunct walking bass line--all of which relate to past ideas. These gestures are constantly competing for attention and each manages to enter the main focus of the piece, but none so much as the bass line, which is the quickest to attempt to take over and the most successful at keeping the spotlight.