Stories I Cannot Tell You 2017. 18′ 1-1-1-1, 1-1-2, 2 perc, piano, 5-5-4-3-2. Commissioned by the League of Composers / ISCM, US Section. Premiered by the Orchestra of the League of Composers, May 2017 in Miller Theatre, NYC. Available from the composer.
‘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 followed by upward sweeps, each a tad 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. It exits, submerged in dark pulsing chords in the strings, alternating with winds.
In contrast to movements one and two, the third movement pursues its dark musical business directly. Here we have a straightforward narrative experience, with an ominous tune in three short phrases. Imagine a flock of blackbirds flying south, high in the sky, just before dawn. Two people see them; one has just nearly escaped death. The other says, stuttering, “Do you, do you see the blackbirds flying south?” and then, “I see you watching, do you see them?” and finally, “Will you be here when they return?” You may be able to hear the text, ‘sung’ by the brass instruments.
Music From A Summer Afternoon. 1978. 6′ 4-3-3-3, 3-4-2-1, 3 perc, celeste, harp, full string sections. Premiered by the University of Michigan Philharmonia ORchestra, Stephen Osmond, conductor, Hill Auditorium, Ann Arbor, MI, February 1978. Available from the composer.