WOW I have not written on here in almost a full entire year, which is crazy, because I have so much to talk about- everything from Miss America to Beethoven sonatas, all of which is coming your way.
But not today, because today I’m here to tell you about my new piece!
Over the past *covers mouth* years that I have been at Ole Miss, I have written, as of yesterday, 4 works for the wind ensemble here. It’s been interesting, because it’s almost been like a long-term residency, where I’ve really gotten to know the players and see how the ensemble has changed and grown. So, it was a nice surprise when David Willson, probably the biggest champion of my music, asked me to write another piece for them, to be part of a concert of all premieres by composers associated with the University in some way.
The challenge here was two-fold. 1) Being on a concert of entirely new music is weird, because you want your piece to be different, but there’s no way to know exactly what the other composers will write.
2) I was given carte blanche to write whatever I wanted, which is the hardest thing to write. If someone tells you “Write me a 5 minute concert opener” or “I want a 6 minute ballad”, that’s easy because you automatically have a frame to work in, but having no restrictions is the worst, because then you have to set your own.
At first, I wanted to do something big and celebratory- kind of a “shave and a haircut” on my time here at Ole Miss, but the music never fit like I thought it should. The piece ended up being, very VERY different than what I or anyone expected, which is not entirely bad.
Without going into too much personal detail, about a year ago I went through a very dark time in my life, and those feelings have held on to me even now. So, when I went to write what I thought would be a big, happy piece, the music came out wild and angry and did not stop. About the same time, I found this poem by Louise Erdrich, and the sixth section (God, I was not meant to be the isolate/cry in this body,) latched on to me. I quickly realized that the piece was meant to be about desperation.
“De profundis clamavi” (loosely translated “From the depths, I cried”) is a sort of companion piece to my last piece for wind ensemble, “Et exspecto”. But where “Et exspecto” started still and nervous, and then ramped up the energy to the end, this piece starts with a shriek and ends in stillness and desperation. One is a crescendo, the other its decrescendo.
The music is full of upward phrases, literally cries from the depths, that never get resolved. This is music about unability. Unable to get to the next place, to get out, to resolve. The ensemble tries the same phrases again and again, hoping to reach something new, but rarely succeeding.
The piece ends with a flute quartet, which taken alone would feel very much in F major, but the ensemble quietly hums a unison D underneath, the relative minor tone, undermining what should be the happy ending. Echoes from a solo vibraphone keep the minor tone ringing in our ears to the end.
“De profundis clamavi” premieres on November 20, 2014.