Since I am on a weeklong camping trip(Sept. 12 -18)and I am not composing, I am interrupting my writing about my “Four Poems” to write about a recent composition, “Legacy”. I began my blog-site after reading a mystery novel based around a blog. At that time, I was nearing the completion of my composition “Legacy”, which was being composed for the Washington Sinfonietta. I started my blog-site because I thought it would be interesting for both the musicians for whom the piece is being written and the potential audiences, to be able to experience a new piece of music unfold as it is being written. I also thought that it could be an interesting learning experience for developing composers. Rather than beginning my blog as I was composing the end of “Legacy”, I waited until I began a new one. Subsequently, my blog has created enough interest that members of the Washington Sinfonietta asked if I would consider writing about “Legacy” after the fact. So here I am, on the third day of my mini-camping vacation sitting at a picnic table on a beautiful sunny late summer day in Prince William Forest Park south of Washington, DC jotting down my thoughts.
Since I am now writing about the piece after it was composed, I am including the program notes here to give the reader a sense of what “Legacy” is about.
Legacy is a three-movement composition for chamber orchestra that makes social commentary on the issue of global warming. It was commission by the Washington Sinfonietta, Rufus Jones, conductor.
I. Conflicts - This movement begins with a "cry" from native cultures admonishing our neglect of the environment. The cry is interspersed with "debate" regarding the seriousness of global warming (woodwinds). The debate grows stronger as the cries grow weaker. The debate is quieted by a measure of repeated chords that could be the words, "stop it! stop it now!". A weak cry in the English Horn brings the introduction to a close. An Allegro section follows with a rhythmic and primitive sounding section representing the underdeveloped nations that are destroying the rain forests for economic gain. This material evolves into a more harmonic and contrapuntal section representing industrialized nations reluctant to change, also for economic reasons. Things quiet down as the music takes the listener to another part of the globe, East Asia. Conflict is again present in this section. The music returns to a varied restatement of the industrialized nations music before traveling to India for a section influenced by Raga. This section builds in dissonance until we hear the repeated "stop it now" chords from the introduction. A brief reprise of the cries brings the movement to a close.
II. Consequences - This movement evokes a somber mood that is reflective of living in a climate of extremes. The movement is in arch form as it begins and ends with open harmony reflective of barren lands that once were fertile. The middle section serves as a climax expressive the harshness of the climate. Colleen McCullough’s book, "A Creed for the Third Millennium" was a source of inspiration for this movement.
III. Sacrifice and Compromise - The movement begins with a strong section that suggests progress. It is followed by a quieter and intense section that alternates lyrical lines over a staccato ostinato that creates a sense of urgency. The opening section returns and is followed by a development of the ostinato section. This section is symbolic of how ideas need to be adapted in order for progress to be made. The opening section returns once more before leading into the concluding section where there is coming together of the instruments on a long lyrical line representing more and more people working together for change. The movement ends with a sense of triumph over adversity.
What I’d like to discuss in this first post is the process I used to get started on “Legacy”.
Since I was commissioned by an orchestra located in our nation’s capital, I wanted to write something that would deal with a controversial current events issue, and the concern over “global warming” and its ramifications is something that is close to my heart. The other influencing factor is a request from the Washington Sinfonietta to incorporate some ethnic influences in the piece as their orchestra consists of ethnically diverse personnel. I then came up with the title “Legacy” and the titles for the three movements, “Conflicts”, Consequences” and “Harmony of the Earth”. The ethnic influences were easy to incorporate into the first movement, “Conflicts” as “Global Warming” is an international concern. My true “Romantic” character likes to bring my compositions to a close with a message of hope that follows the conflict and struggles presented earlier. But as I was composing “Legacy”, “Harmony of the Earth” became too much like a pipe dream and even I, with my “Pollyanna” optimism, couldn’t feel comfortable with the title of the third movement. It was while I was writing the third movement that the present title “Sacrifice and Compromise” occurred to me and is a better representation of the realities surrounding global warming.
When I write a piece for a large ensemble, I do not usually compose on a reduced score and orchestrate later. Orchestration is an integral part of my compositions and I orchestrate as I compose the piece, therefore the full score is in front of me from the moment of conception.
To see and hear what is discussed, go to http://www.sibeliusmusic.com/index.php?sm=home.score&scoreID=133682