Beacons

2010

for two flutes, two clarinets, viola, cello, piano (4 hands), and percussion

Commissioned by Dinosaur Annex Music Ensemble
Live recording by the SUNY Purchase Contemporary Music Ensemble

program note:

Beacons was commissioned by Dinosaur Annex Music Ensemble for their 2011 Young Composers concert. From the beginning of the composing process, I was interested in the nature of the performance (a side-by-side mix of students and professionals) as a strong influence on the kind of musical interactions between players throughout the piece. Ultimately, I decided to focus in on 'private' dialogues between the student-professional duets that this instrumentation provided: two flutes, two clarinets, and two pianists.

The piece, divided into three movements, is saturated with imitation within these duet groups. Knowing that the piece would be performed with high-school students, I couldn't help but revisit some of the pieces that really attracted me while I was the same age. In this process of retracing my steps, I regained a deeper appreciation for some of the music I had abandoned as I got deeper into my higher education. In a surface-level reflection this experience, the imitative writing involves the student following the professional early in the piece, and transforms into the professional following the student by the end.

The first two movements, Daybeacon and Relays focus on imitation in slightly different ways. Both are energetic and rhythmically propulsive. While I rarely conceive music based on visual or physical ideas, movement III, Lights, was very much inspired by an imaginary lighthouse scenario: a beam of light, slowly revolving (piano and guitars), one-by-one illuminates faint, shimmering textures (duet groups) underneath a watery surface. These textures become more or less clear upon each rotation, but softly disappear as the projected light passes by.

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Beacons score and parts set (choose format):