Today, I began work on a new piece - one that is promising to be one of the most substantial works I have written in recent time. After reading the poetry of friend and colleague Linda Beher, I have been inspired to write an 11-movement work entitled "Guided Imagery" that will constitute some 45 minutes of continuous music, with seamless transitions between movements. The piece is scored for bass-baritone, oboe, and piano and will be premiered on the Asylum Hill Chamber Series on February 27th, 2011. I am so lucky that two of my closest friends, and two of Hartford's finest musicians, bass-baritone Marques J. Ruff and oboist Dylan Armstrong, will be joining me in this premiere.
As I have been sketching, I have very much taken into consideration the tone of the poet. Linda's poetry takes the reader to a dreamworld full of vivid imagery through the use of metaphor, yet is at its essence about commonplace human to human interactions, drawn from her own experience, or through the general human experience. I have decided that instead of looking at each poem as its own "universe," I would set up a tonal landscape that would fit the entire work, and then use subtle changes in tonality and texture to follow the changes in mood within, and between, each poem. I have chosen 9 of Linda's poems, which in themselves tell a bit of a story, and which loosely follow the changing of seasons. On the bookends of the work are a prelude and postlude played by the piano and oboe.
From the first measure, the piece takes on a sort of minimalist tone. The piano part throughout the 45 or so minutes of music consists of a series of slowly progressing ostinati. In fact, I am still debating whether or not I will be adding a marimba to help fill out my vision of this "voice," which is rhythmically driven and contains several cross-rhythms. The oboe is alternately part of these ostinati, and then a melodic voice of its own. The human voice presents the poetry, in a speech rhythm often unrelated to the strict rhythmic patterns in the piano, but always agreeing in mode/scale. The voice part is, in a sense, a diatonic, chant-like recitation of the poetry while the harmonic landscape in the background reflects the underlying mood of the passage. If you heard last year's premiere, and still to this day the only performance, of my "7 Sketches for Clarinet Trio," imagine that work unfolding in slow motion, and driven by text, and you will get a little bit of an idea of what "Guided Imagery" will be.
So, mark your calendars for 2/27/11! This is a premiere I hope you can attend, as this work is not only a project close to my heart since I am collaborating with close friends, but is also one that is a culmination of compositional techniques I have been developing since 2005.