Testing the Second Breath refers to the maxim that half the Earth’s oxygen is generated by marine life. “Take two breaths,” conservationists say. “The second comes from the ocean.” Continue reading
One summer day, while hiking in the Shawangunk Mountains of New York, I suddenly felt a blast of frigid air, escaping up out of a cave some distance below the trail. I wondered about the depth of the fissure, and what kind of force could propel this air up against gravity. It did not look safe to investigate, but I found my thoughts returning to this place over the next several weeks, envisioning the cold subterranean world just out of sight. My music, consequently, was imbued with those imaginings: this piece features a strong tension between upward-reaching motives and heavy, downward-directed harmonies. The energy and mystery of those mountains are fused in my memory with the composition of this work.
Buy viola versionBuy clarinet version This extended 6-part canon was originally written for 6 clarinets. Each instrumentalist plays the same material, but the impact of these identical statements varies with the surrounding musical context: some entrances produce tension, others merge smoothly with the prevailing atmosphere, and others barely register as the listener’s attention is concentrated elsewhere. Alternate versions are available for 6 violas or 6 bassoons, and additional arrangements are in progress. The piece can also be performed by a single instrumentalist with electronic delay.
Consciousness is the Creature of Rhythm was inspired by the short story Moxon’s Master by Ambrose Bierce, in which an inventor is apparently killed by his automaton. The story is full of logical gaps, however, and what really happened has been a matter of debate. This piece deliberately leaves those gaps unfilled, suggesting connections and motivations without explicitly endorsing any theory. The audience must use its imagination to make sense of the action and determine who is responsible for Moxon’s death.