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Download a PDF file of the score of this composition. For perusal only -- not printable.
Commissioned and premiered by the Palisades Virtuosi (Margaret Swinchoski, flute, Donald Mokrynski, clarinet, and Ron Levy, piano) at the Unitarian Society of Ridgewood, New Jersey, March 8, 2008
These three movements for flute, clarinet and piano celebrate life. Specifically, they have been inspired by the “Humanist Teachings” (collection of poetry) in the Unitarian Hymnal. And with this in mind, poems may be read before the playing of each movement. Or, the music may be performed without break.
“Setting Forth” is a musical response to the Walt Whitman poem, “Song of the Open Road.” Phrases rise, often spanning an octave or more of “open” space. There is energy expressed as the tempo quickens, and the harmonic center shifts upward. After several exuberant passages, the music softens to a quiet ending, as though listening to what path will appear next.
“The Grace of the World” follows the Wendell Berry poem, “The Peace of Wild Things,” although several other poems in this section of the Teachings are of similar sentiments. Musical motion is slow-paced, perhaps best demonstrated by the opening chords in the piano where most pitches move only stepwise, and some are held through. These chords return throughout the piece, providing a pond of “still water” beneath the winds. The flute and clarinet are the melodic voices representing the activity of nature – birds, stars.
Just as “Setting Forth” serves as a starting point for the musical expedition, so does a benediction of “Let Tomorrow Come” offer closing sentiments. And these are sentiments of rejoicing as well as acceptance. For there is the acknowledgment that the journey from dark to light is accomplished not by ourselves alone. In the words of the Wendell Berry poem, “Not by your will is the house carried through the night.”
Therefore, the musical celebration takes the form of a lively mixed-meter dance. The articulation is staccato (short) to represent specks of light. Delight is taken in the rhythmic vitality of this music. Morning has arrived!
Notes by the composer