was composed for the Emory University Wind Ensemble, at the request of my friend and former teacher, Nikk Pilato.
I think of this piece as a fantasy, with a very short, heroic brass fanfare wedged in the center of a larger, more ornamented musical frame.
The piece was commissioned as a concert opener for the premiere of Joseph Schwantner's Concerto for Wind Orchestra. I began sketches for Astrarium
in June, 2014 while on a residency at MacDowell Colony, an arts colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire. In the studios at MacDowell, it has become
customary for artists to sign their names on planks of wood, keeping a log of each studio's history of visiting artists. Coincidentally, I came
across Joseph Schwantner's name in my studio, dated 1978, and discovered that he had composed a song cycle in the same room more than 35 years earlier.
I couldn't help but use a small quote from his piece in mine; thus, the opening vocal phrase of Schwantner's cycle, Wild Angels of the Open Hills
a subtle appearance as an oboe solo in Astrarium, and is later used as the subject for a fugue section just after the fanfare. The title, Astrarium
refers to a complex astronomical clock invented by Giovanni de' Dondi in the 14th century, one of the earliest contraptions resembling mechanisms of
modern clocks. The more I thought about connecting my own musical ideas to an earlier time and place -perhaps to Schwantner in my studio three-and-a-half
decades ago, or to myself playing bassoon in Nikk's wind ensemble as a freshman in high school- the more the sonic imagery of clockwork became
central to the piece.
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