Instrumentation: flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon
Duration: ca. 10′
Commission: Quintet of the Americas
Premiere: 24 June 2015, Queens Botanical Garden (Flushing, N.Y.)
Complete work, performed live by Exponential Ensemble:
Variable Winds was composed in the winter and early spring of 2014-15. The piece was commissioned by Quintet of the Americas who approached me about writing a work that reflects my connection to the borough of Queens in New York City, where I have lived since 1997.
Queens is known for its great diversity: It is among the most diverse places on the planet. I immediately thought of the wind quintet itself as an example of this diversity with its collection of disparate instruments. This led me to reflect upon the notion of change and how it has shaped the borough over many decades. During the composition of this work, I was delighted to discover my own deeper connection to Queens. My great-grandfather was a young 2nd Lieutenant, fresh out of the United States Military Academy at West Point, when he was stationed at Fort Totten in Willets Point, Queens, a very short distance from my current home. It was there that he met his wife and was married in 1895. In this way, were it not for Queens, neither this work, nor I, would exist!
The piece’s title is not only a play on words (referring to the meteorological term for shifting wind speeds), but also gives a sense of the work’s construction. Composed as a kind of rondo, the single movement unfolds as a series of variations on its opening bars, changing character quickly from section to section, yet always returning to the original material. This form was intended to illustrate the borough of Queens as a shifting tapestry of people who, though originating from many places across the globe, nevertheless come together to pursue their common goals of living together in harmony.