Dark Passage
for orchestra


Dark Passage was composed during the summer of 2010 for Ya-Ping Wang and the National Pingtung University of Education Orchestra. It continues developing an idea that I used in the composition Stellar Convergence, which was composed for that orchestra in 2009. The primary image of Stellar Convergence is a spacecraft sailing into the center of a galaxy of stars. That piece ends with the spacecraft being drawn in by the gravitational force of a black hole and eventually disappearing into it. Dark Passage then attempts to illustrate what might happen as the spaceship and crew pass through that mysterious and violent darkness. 

Some pitch materials of Stellar Convergence reappear in Dark Passage. The most obvious of these is a descending series of pitches (C-B-G#-G-F-E-D#-D) that appears as high, slow notes above other music. Unlike Stellar Convergence, however, a feeling of instability is often created in Dark Passage by the use of many meter changes, sudden accents and clashing dissonances. This instability is meant to portray disorientation caused by the immense crushing forces and terrific speeds one might experience while being pulled into a black hole. Technically, this effect is created by either adding beats to, or subtracting beats from the rhythms and meter signatures. When beats are subtracted, there is a sense of quickening, but when beats are added the pace seems to slow down. This rhythmic instability creates a sense of disorientation—as if the physical universe and even time itself is being destroyed. Finally, the sharp accents and jarring dissonant contrasts are meant to evoke the experience of a violent, dangerous and possibly deadly journey. 

Formally, it will be noticed that there are two slow and calm sections in this piece. The first is the introduction, which is meant to evoke the feeling of a mysterious floating before the worst parts of the journey begin. Then, after a fast and unstable section (as described above), a slow and floating middle section appears, creating a false sense that the danger has passed and a glimmer of distant hope can be seen. Eventually, however, the fast and unstable music returns, now becoming even louder and more violent. The piece ends with dark reverberations after a final crash. 

(duration ca. 7:30)
Dark Passage may be played separately, or as part of the
Symphony Stellar Convergence