Duration: ca. 18’30”
Commission: Auburn Symphony Orchestra
Premiere: 30 January 2016, Auburn Performing Arts Center (Auburn, Wash.)
In Pieces began as the brain-child of Stewart Kershaw, the former (and founding) music director of the Auburn Symphony Orchestra, who asked me to compose a work to celebrate the reopening of a newly designed Auburn Performing Arts Center, the Auburn Symphony’s home for nearly twenty years.
From the beginning, I had in mind a different sort of symphonic scheme, one that did not have a single narrative structure from start to finish, but could rather be heard in multiple configurations. I therefore decided that the three movements could be performed in any order, and thereby create an overall different effect depending on that order. Each movement has its own character, or “shape.” One movement is in the form of a three-part overture (Slow and mournful—Doppio movimento—Tempo I˚), one is a scherzo and trio (Hard, fast, aggressive), and the remaining is in the shape of of an arc that builds from next to nothing, arrives at a climax, then collapses back to its quiet opening (Molto moderato).
Originally, I set out to compose a work that would be festive and celebratory. However, as I began writing, I couldn’t help but be affected by what was happening in the world around me. In many ways we seem to be living in dark and fractious times. And the more I wrote, the more I realized that the music was coming out as something other than upbeat. And sometimes a composer simply needs to go where the music leads….
So while the music does have its occasional upbeat, optimistic moments, the overall feel of it skews toward darkness and resignation. Perhaps, in this sense, In Pieces (whose title reflects both a literal and a symbolic meaning) can be thought of less as a celebration, and more as a commemoration. It is an offering, in symphonic form, to the orchestra that commissioned it (many of whose members I have known since childhood) and the community that I know and love so well.