(1997) for orchestra
premiere: Minnesota Orchestra, Eiji Oue, March 27, 1997
(as part of sun moon stars rain)
“sun moon stars rain” and “summer autumn winter spring” are lines from a poem by E. E. Cummings (“anyone lived in a pretty how town”, 50 Poems, 1940). In 1997, as winner of the International Barlow Prize I composed sun moon stars rain for a consortium of orchestras including the Minnesota Orchestra, Saint Louis Symphony and Baltimore Symphony. Having first decided to compose four short movements with contrasting focused characters, the idea of writing my own ‘four seasons’ seemed to match that conception well, so I borrowed these lines as titles.
The movements share some elements of structure. The number 4 is important: 4 movements, about 4 minutes each. Many of the large scale proportions and even specific rhythms are based on the numbers 1 through 4. For example, there are four major sections in each movement, with proportions of 1:2:3:4 and the orders of these proportions are unique in each movement.
The concluding movement, Spring, which can be performed alone, presents some gestures associated with rain, such as thunderclaps and falling figures, but is for the most part concerned with growth. Small musical gestures, like cells, are repeated, varied, and expanded upon. A spiral structure, as in 1-2-1-2-3-2-1-2-3-4 etc, is used rhythmically and harmonically throughout the work. The character of the movement is vivacious and relentless, with rather bouncy syncopated rhythms throughout. Influence from big-band jazz can be heard in the rich harmonies and in the rapid exchanges between the sections of the orchestra.