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In Winter (2007)
for Orchestra: 3(2Picc,3Alto)3(3E.H.)3(3B.Cl)2(2C.Bn.) – 322(2B.Tbn)0 – Perc(3) – Cel., Hp., Strings (10-8-6-6-4)
Duration: ca 9’

SMMP No. 117

First Reading: “EarShot” Program, Copley Symphony Hall, San Diego, San Diego Symphony, James Feddeck, conductor, April 20, 2012.

In Winter was composed in the winter of 2007. The initial ideas for the work emerged the year before while I was living in Minnesota. I was compelled to write the piece after encountering the following haiku written by Basho:

Winter solitude –
in a world of one color
the sound of wind.

Basho’s haiku has an astonishing capacity to evoke a rich series of images and ideas through a remarkable economy of words.

In Winter is a quiet piece, marked by slowly shifting bands of sound. The work is sparse: there are no themes or figurative gestures to speak of; rather harmonies are frozen, and significant emphasis is placed on reconfiguring the orchestral colors that comprise these harmonies in order to offer a dynamic (or prismatic) view of the materials. There are three basic ideas in the work, each one allied with a line from the haiku, and like its textual source, the music is at once concentrated and evocative. The work does not intend to present a particular image or series of images, nor does it illustrate a program; however, in its recursive ruminations of the haiku emerges a physicality animated by spaces, textures, and sensations I associate with winter.

The metaphorical lens offered here is, I hope, helpful in establishing for the listener the basis for the work’s composition and for the aphoristic nature of the materials. The piece offers a means of listening to the orchestra in a renewed manner. Woodwinds, in particular, are exposed in a number of places, never with a soaring melody, but rather emerging as crystalline, isolated figures. Indeed the contrast of sounds that are combined and diffused throughout many instruments with sounds that appear concentrated in one instrumental voice becomes a sort of motive in this otherwise non-motivic piece.

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