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Solace for Wind Ensemble and Electronics

September 19, 2012 ComposingConcertMusic

My newest work for large ensemble and electronics, Solace, is now in rehearsals at the University of North Carolina Greensboro. Yesterday was the first rehearsal with electronics, and the first time I’ve gotten to hear the piece – always an overwhelming experience. The band sounded great, especially since it’s still early in the process, yet. The electronics… worked. Mostly.

For this piece, unlike Ecstatic Waters, I’m using a synth keyboard to trigger the cues (all 70+ of them – I’ve lost count), but in rehearsal yesterday, UNCG’s Yamaha S08 keyboard wasn’t talking to my laptop in rehearsal (turns out I needed to go to Utility page 13 and change the MIDI Host Select to USB, AND install a special MIDI driver on my computer – needless to say, that didn’t happen in rehearsal. Stephanie, the keyboard player who’s triggering everything, was a trooper, and when I sat her at the laptop and said “play this” instead of the synth keyboard, she obliged and was spot on.

The piece is very different from Ecstatic Waters. Dark, slow throughout, and built entirely upon a single nine-tone row:

I admit, it doesn’t make for a pretty melody, but somehow I created nearly 14′ of music I love out of it. This quasi-serialist bent seems to be an ongoing trend in my recent works. Ecstatic Waters used a pure twelve-tone row in Mvt IV, and Mvt I of my Concerto for Cello uses a nine-tone row. I don’t employ them for the same purpose that Schoenberg and Co. developed the system (my works have definitive tonal centers), the emergent melodic/harmonic surprises from adhering to a system, especially when set in opposition to my intuitive predilections, keep the compositional experience fresh, and push me in unexpected directions.

More about the work in the coming weeks. UNCG’s Wind Ensemble will premiere Solace on October 9th, at Aycock Auditorium, and then again at the CBDNA National Convention in March, 2013. North Carolinians, would be honored if you came!