A Valentine for Pandora

ensemble flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, cello, trombone, tuba, violin, bass, timpani, two percussion (glockenspiel, marimba, chimes, triangle, xylophone), and piano
duration ~6:45
score PDF, 364KB
date completed 1995


Built atop two contrasting themes—one that descends in fifths, the other that ascends in fifths, both in 4/4—this piece was the first I’d written specifically for a “new music” ensemble. (Apparently, I thought that meant I must include every instrument and, in some cases, completely ignoring harmony were the core guidelines.) It opens with the themes being stated among some intentionally cacophonic interstitial music.

What begins as a brief experiment with these themes (and a questionable quote of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas”) quickly dissolves into more dance-oriented sections. The first is a sountrack-sounding 4/4 that leads into the second, which is more of a waltz in 3/4. This theme repeats, and the ascending theme is brought back over top of it, loudly and elongated, by the horn until it takes over the waltz accompaniment. It ends abruptly and falls back to a solo iteration of the opening descending theme. That theme then builds until the entire ensemble collapses back into the opening interstitial, which fades to nothing.

This piece has never been performed. Like several of my pieces, it sounds like “movie music,” though a little more frenetic, probably because it was born out of emotional and post-adolescent turmoil. Despite that and its intended debut ensemble, it’s very traditional in its harmony and framing of melody. I did not yet know what “new music” was (I may not still). Anyway, it was based on this poem:

A Valentine for Pandora

We skimmed the treetops,
looking for glory among
the thin branches, still
flexible with youth.

When the river grew shallow
and the bottom peered at
daylight, we maneuvered
between the myriad wires
and machines that had
overthrown the boughs.

Now, as you speed along
a distant skyline, the trees
are fallen and barely visible
through the leaves that
shield them. Getting colder,
greyer each morning (though
Spring approaches), my wings
are clipped, my eyes are clouded,
I cannot find my way south.

And in the hallowed halls
of my disarray, your shadow
stays with me; it haunts and
comforts me – through the darkest
rain and the brightest fog, I can see it.