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New Program Notes for One Sows, Creatures

Program note for One Sows for the Benefit of Another Age, which is new this summer:

I started writing what would become One Sows for the Benefit of Another Age in 2013, as I was sketching ideas for what became a piano trio. I liked what I had created, but two things became evident: The piece was destined to be for orchestra, and I was not good enough as a composer to finish it. Over the next seven years, I kept returning to this piece in my spare time, adding some sections, tweaking some others, and at some point I gained the experience to finish it. But the trade-off was that I no longer had the time. At least until Spring of 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic put most of my projects on hold, and I was able to return to–and finish–the work.

The title came last. My ideas while I was writing centered around Americana (I was listening to a lot of Copland, Barber, and Ives) and infusing my history and experience in the Ozarks and on the plains. I knew I wanted to make use of the idea of illumination, of dawn. I wanted to start in the shadows and end aglow. The darkness was such a defining feature that my working title was Aegri Somnia, loosely translated from Latin as “troubled dreams”. As I continued working, I realized that the focus wasn’t the darkness–the focus was the change.

I discuss change a lot in my teaching. Students often see change as transformative change–massive, radical, sweeping change, like winning the lottery, or winning an audition. Transformative change is easy–it usually involves hoping for a situation or a Deus ex Machina, and if it happens, it benefits us immediately. Iterative change, however–small, repeated, incremental change that builds up over time–is hard. An extra half-hour of work every day, a little extra contributed to savings every month, these changes add up over time and become significant. But it requires intention and action, and it doesn’t reap immediate benefits. It may not end up benefitting us at all.

One Sows changes iteratively. It starts from a dark place, but is sprinkled with seeds of hope. A descending motive introduced in the violins brings us out of the darkness, albeit slowly. The idea spreads, develops, and eventually becomes part of a new idea, a new paradigm, that takes over.

In searching for a title, I came across “Serit ut alteri saeclo prosit,” North Dakota’s Latin state motto, whose English translation is the title of this work. It’s a recent addition to the North Dakota statutes, but a timeless message. Our work isn’t finished yet.

Listen here:


An upgraded program note for Creatures from the Black Bassoon:

Creatures from the Black Bassoon is, as the title suggests, a virtual menagerie of beasts and environments fashioned entirely from processed and unprocessed sounds of the bassoon. Key clicks, reed squeaks and squawks, multiphonics, notes played through various stages of assembly and disassembly, and other traditional and extended techniques are organized by similar properties into species. Some of our creatures appear to be cute, chirpy, fuzzy critters, while others are vicious predators. These beings are placed in a number of tableaus of length devised by the golden ratio, with certain sections designated as “windows” with substantial contrast to the surrounding sections.