Today is the release date for AnyWhen Ensemble’s third album, The Bright and Rushing World, our Chamber Music America-commissioned 10 movement suite. This album was released by Parma Recordings’ Navona imprint, and they’ve been doing a fantastic job. The album is available pretty much everywhere in hard copy and digital formats. We’re very excited about this recording, but don’t take my word for it, we’ve gotten some great reviews already. You can buy the album at iTunes, Amazon, Classics Online, and many other places.
I’d like to share the program notes I wrote for this piece. After all this time, I still feel about the same about this music—I’m still marveling at how it has taken shape on its own, and taken on its own personality. However, now that we’ve been so lucky as to perform this many times around the country, my relationship to it as a performer has changed. I’m now familiar with all the difficult passages, places where I make mistakes unless I’m careful, and my favorite passages. I had different ideas of where all these places would be as I was writing it, and to know have a different view of these fundamental elements of the piece is extremely gratifying. Here are the notes I wrote, about how I felt about the piece just after it was finished.
As I was planning the shape of The Bright and Rushing World, I knew that I wanted to write a long suite with several movements all based on a single theme that would remain ever-present and ever-recognizable. I wanted to create the most developed and integrated piece on a grand scale, so that this theme would serve as a constant thread that would guide a listener through this long work, and help to deliver him to the end of the piece with the satisfaction of a journey completed. It was the most ambitious work I set out to do, and I have to admit that it was a struggle. But, after nearly nine months of constant revisions and detours, I did finish the piece, and I had accomplished my goals. But, I wasn’t quite finished. As I was putting the final touches on The Bright and Rushing World, I realized I had not given the piece a name. It was astonishing that I had spent so much time on the piece and still did not know what to call it. So, I began to write down a flow of ideas about the piece—mostly thoughts I had had as I was composing, or phrases that came to mind, and soon the scene of a young man leaving his home for the first time with a watchful parent standing by came to mind. The door is open wide, and he walks confidently into the world, but the parent is shocked to realize, after all these years, that he had never given his son a name. I wrote this poem, with one line for each movement of the piece, very quickly.
The Bright and Rushing World
the door is open
and you watch as he goes out
a seeker, insubmissive
into the bright and rushing world,
who, over years in your care,
you never thought to give a name.
you gasp and ask aloud
how can you live without a name?
a question so weightless it floats away
on the wind of his leaving.
The poem captured my feelings about the piece at that moment. Like with every piece I write, when it is finished, when the score is engraved, when the parts go out to the musicians and rehearsals begin, it feels like your offspring. You have put so much work into making it what it is, but you do not own it, not any more. As soon as you let it go, the piece no longer needs you, just like a child grown into an adult. I had many thoughts come and go as I composed, many of them having to do with pieces of music that have influenced me. If I think about other pieces when trying to write my own, it is like trying to grab hold of other people’s ideas. Given the impossibility of this task, I just get lost. When I looked back, I realized that best composing I did was when I just paid attention to this piece. Like the parent character in the poem, the questions of “who should I emulate?” just floated away, and the piece took on its own vitality.
As you can tell, I don’t like to write traditional program notes, where the writer tells you more or less what happens in the piece and when. I can say that each of the ten movements of this piece, that we will perform without stopping, could stand alone but are all connected by a single theme that you will hear me play on the trumpet at the very beginning of the piece. After that, you’ll hear this original idea grow, change and develop so that by the end of the piece you will have a new sense of the phrase, almost as if it were alive. The piece is long. I did that on purpose, because I believe part of an artist’s duty to his community is to challenge himself, and therefore also his audience, to see the world in new and more perceptive way. Challenging our attention span is a part of this, but I also hope that you will enjoy the journey that this piece represents as much I and the ensemble will enjoy playing for you.
I hope that you’ll purchase this album, I’m exceptionally proud of it. And be sure to see our upcoming performances, some of which will include this piece. One that I’m extra excited about is our booking for next year at the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC. We’ll be seeing you around the country in our 14-15 season, and you can hear all the details by joining our mailing list.
Thanks for your support,