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Opposing Forces
see instrumentation list below
(2006)

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The inspiration for this composition is the image of a sailing ship and the way it uses many different forces of the wind and sea to navigate its course. The title Opposing Forces refers to the fact that those forces -- the prevailing winds, unpredictable gusts of wind, waves, and sea currents -- all try to push the ship in different directions. A skilled crew, however, can work these forces against each other to control the ship's course and propel it forward.

This piece begins quietly, with different motives representing gentle winds, calm seas and slowly moving ocean currents all appearing together. These musical ideas (or forces) constantly interact with each other to create a momentum that propels the music forward. In spite of a building complexity, the overall effect of this section is pleasant, like a calm sea voyage. A cello melody then enters, as if it were a ship successfully navigating these forces of the wind and sea. As the winds eventually begin picking up speed, however, the situation changes. The same musical ideas continue to be heard, but their characters change and the music becomes less stable and more dramatic. It might even sound as if the crew has begun losing control of its ship.

The primary challenge of writing this piece was that my concept of overlapping ideas doesn't create the contrasting themes and formal sections that are necessary for most traditional forms. Instead, contrast is created by using a variety of textures, colors and characters, and by controlling how different musical ideas interact with each other. Dramatically, the music flows directly from its beginning to a climax near the end without any major interruptions. The challenge to performers, then, is that the clarity and balance of independent musical ideas must always be maintained, even when the textures become complex, but that all of this activity should create a simple dramatic flow.

(duration ca. 9:15)


Instrumentation
2 flutes (fl 2 doubles piccolo)
2 oboes
bassoon
2 horns in F

vibraphone

piano

2 violins
viola
cello
contrabass