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Three Vignettes
for flute, oboe and piano



Each of these short pieces attempts to capture a mood, or the essence of a situation. In this sense, they are very much like short verbal descriptions, or simple illustrations that accompany a written story. Hence, the title "vignettes".

Conflicting Interest is based on a situation in which one person's attention is divided between two different interests. Musically, this conflict is created by having the flute and oboe play two different types of rhythmic grouping that create different tempos and different meters. So while the oboe plays a slow lyrical melody, the flute keeps interjecting with faster and more energetic ideas. It all sounds as if somebody sat down for some quiet time alone, but keeps getting distracted by other thoughts or nearby activities. A dialogue between these two musical characters then ensues. At first, the piano simply provides commentary, but it eventually gets pulled into the debate as well.

The second vignette, Drifting Away, was written for a promising former student who unexpectedly died during her first semester of graduate school. A quiet and private individual, she rarely discussed her concerns with others--not even the condition that eventually took her life. While she was comatose and quite literally drifting away, her classmates and I were told of her long-standing need for a kidney transplant. This piece attempts to capture what I felt after seeing her in the hospital and learning the tragedy of a young person's denial. It is based on a series of pitches that leads to the note A, which can be thought of as the goal of her quiet journey.

The title Breaking Free describes the feeling people get when they work through a problem or have a realization that seems to set them mentally or emotionally free. A repeated rhythmic pattern appears throughout this movement, as if it's a nagging problem that must be solved. Similarly, the series of pitches used in Drifting Away continues to reappear. Eventually, as these structural aspects create an oppressive-sounding texture that seems to exert complete control, the music builds to a tense climax. There, however, it suddenly breaks loose with a burst of freely cascading energy. As that energy settles, a new-found freedom is realized with a moment of quiet musical rubato.

(duration ca. 11 minutes)