I. Ceremony of Innocence
III. The Generous Wrath of Simple Men
IV. The Loving Machinery of Justice
V. Spiritus Mundi
I was ravished by the sound world, a hybrid of electronics and live players, beautifully controlled, with a range of expression and technical work far beyond most works…
– Timothy Reynish
Ecstatic Waters is music of dialectical tension – a juxtaposition of contradictory or opposing musical and extra-musical elements and an attempt to resolve them. The five connected movements hint at a narrative that touches upon naiveté, divination, fanaticism, post-human possibilities, anarchy, order, and the Jungian collective unconscious. Or, as I have described it more colloquially: W.B. Yeats meets Ray Kurzweil in the Matrix.
The overall title, as well as “Ceremony of Innocence” and “Spiritus Mundi” are taken from poetry of Yeats (“News for the Delphic Oracle,” and “The Second Coming”), and his personal, idiosyncratic mythology and symbolism of spiraling chaos and looming apocalypse figured prominently in the genesis of the work. Yet in a nod to the piece’s structural reality – as a hybrid of electronics and living players – Ecstatic Waters also references the confrontation of unruly humanity with the order of the machine, as well as the potential of a post-human synthesis, in ways inspired by Kurzweil.
The first movement, Ceremony of Innocence, begins as a pure expression of exuberant joy in unapologetic Bb Major in the Celesta and Vibraphone. The movement grows in momentum, becoming perhaps too exuberant – the initial simplicity evolves into a full-throated brashness bordering on dangerous arrogance and naiveté, though it retreats from the brink and ends by returning to the opening innocence.
In Mvt. II, Augurs, the unsustainable nature of the previous Ceremony becomes apparent, as the relentless tonic of Bb in the crystal water glasses slowly diffuses into a microtonal cluster, aided and abetted by the trumpets. Chorale–like fragments appear, foretelling the wrathful self-righteousness of Mvt. III. The movement grows inexorably, spiraling wider and wider, like Yeat’s gyre, until “the center cannot hold,” and it erupts with supreme force into The Generous Wrath of Simple Men.
Mvt. III is deceptive, musically contradicting what one might expect of its title. While it erupts at the outset with overwhelming wrath, it quickly collapses into a relentless rhythm of simmering 16th notes. Lyric lines and pyramids unfold around this, interrupted briefly by the forceful anger of a chorale, almost as if trying to drown out and deny anything but its own existence. A moment of delicate lucidity arrives amidst this back-and-forth struggle, but the chorale ultimately dominates, subsuming everything, spiraling out of control, and exploding.
The Loving Machinery of Justice brings machine-like clarity and judgment. Subtle, internal gyrations between atonality and tonality underpin the dialogue between lyric melody (solo Clarinet and Oboe) and mechanized accompaniment (Bassoons). An emphatic resolution in Ab minor concludes the movement, floating seamlessly into the epilogue, Spiritus Mundi. Reprising music from Mvt. I, this short meditative movement reconciles and releases the earlier excesses.
Special thanks to Drew Leslie for recording the trombone material used in the electronic sounds in movement II.
- Bowling Green State University Wind Symphony, Bruce Moss, conductor (lead commissioner)
- Arizona State University Wind Symphony, Gary Hill, conductor
- California State University Stanislaus Wind Ensemble, Stuart Sims, conductor
- Eastern Illinois University Wind Symphony, Milton Allen, conductor
- Illinois State University Wind Symphony, Stephen Steele, conductor
- Michigan State University Wind Symphony, Kevin Sedatole, conductor
- Ohio State University Symphonic Band, Richard Blatti, conductor
- St. Charles East High School Wind Ensemble, Jim Kull, conductor
- University of Miami Wind Ensemble, Gary Green, conductor
- University of Michigan Symphony Band, Michael Haithcock, conductor
- University of Minnesota Duluth Wind Ensemble, Mark Whitlock, conductor
- University of North Texas Wind Symphony, Eugene Corporon, conductor
- University of Texas Austin Wind Ensemble, Jerry Junkin, conductor
- Valdosta State University Wind Ensemble, Joe Brashier, conductor
- Willowbrook High School Wind Ensemble, William Gilmer, conductor
Commissioned by: Consortium of 15 University and High Schools (full list in perusal score)
23 October 2008, Bowling Green State University Wind Ensemble, Bruce Moss, conductor
26 October 2008, University of Texas Austin Wind Ensemble, Jerry Junkin, conductor
2010 National Band Association William D. Revelli Award