Stories I Cannot Tell You

Stories I Cannot Tell You

for chamber orchestra.  6-5-4-4-2, 1-1-1-1, 1-1-1-1.  2 perc, 1 pno.

  1.  Updraft
  2. Lost Waltz
  3. Blackbirds flew by, and he almost fled the scene, as if drawn by them.

‘Stories I Cannot Tell You’ is in three movements of approximately the same length, that are roughly, fast – slow – fast, played without pause. The work opens with a steady, slow beat in the bass drum that reappears as the transitional element between movements. The music opens up the sound space with upward sweeping gestures each slightly different from its predecessor. Fragments and phrases appear, dissolve and reappear, as we wander deeper into a progressively darker ‘story.’ Tunes or gestures that had been ‘main events’ turn into transitional events, and with each successive repetition, a phrase is compressed. In the middle movement, two waltz-like fragments appear in A-B-A form, bracketing a vibraphone solo – reminiscent of cocktail music from the early 1960s, trying to be lighthearted but falling short. The solo exits, submerged in dark pulsing chords in the strings, alternating with winds. In contrast to movements one and two, the third movement states its dark musical business in the opening and pursues it directly.

Chunks of this third movement music ‘landed on me’ as I drove home to New York City on I-95. So much so, that I had to pull over and write it out – it was too distracting to keep driving. The trip followed an overnight taking care of my ailing Dad immediately after he had an emergency surgery in St. Agnes Hospital, in Baltimore. He was a flight risk and his awareness migrated between lucidity and a few nether-worlds loosely tethered to past traumas. You may be able to hear persistent questions from our conversation played by the brass section. While the piece is not programmatic, it is all about life’s big issues: death, the stories we can’t tell, and how these stories play out in life.

The Orchestra of the League of Composers Orchestra, conducted by Louis Karchin premiered this work on May 25, 2017 in Miller Theatre, NYC.