A swirling tune played on a marimba disburses like ripples in a pond – in ever widening circles. Via fractured counterpoint it visits the song of a veery and an elegy before arriving at a jarring end.scored for ‘pierrot ensemble’ plus two percussionists. The first plays primarily marimba and vibraphone; the second plays wooden, hand held instruments and a pair of conga drums. The infusion of percussion extends the timbral window of the ensemble towards small, wooden, ‘natural’ sounds, which makes it possible to explore a wide range of music, including bits of bird song.
The title Round Trip Ticket refers to the experience of excursion and return inherent in a work structured around a theme and variations. The theme is the whole of my Piano Prelude No. Six (1996), stated by the marimba, followed by eleven variations and a restatement of the theme. The initial variations stay ‘close to home’, but each successive variation ventures further away, exploring increasingly tangential ideas and harmonic territory. Variation 5 takes the ‘fast, repeated note’ quality of the theme to new extremes, via an orchestration of a veery’s call, at quarter speed. (The veery is a bird, common in deep woods in northeastern U.S.) In spite of a big effort to digress, almost every variation ends with or mimics the ‘determined’ closure from the end of the theme. Finally, the theme returns at the end of the work, in its original ‘key’, with elaborate orchestration.
Written in July 2006 – February 2007, the work is dedicated to the memory of Nancy Forgione, a writer and art historian who passed away in December of 2006. Variation 6 is an overt Elegy, so-marked in the score, but the tone of ‘loss’ reappears in the balance of the work. I am grateful to Lou Karchin and Washington Square Contemporary Music Society for the premiere performance on December 3, 2009 and subsequent recording in 2010. This recording will be released on an APNM double – CD in 2017.