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Tuesday
May012012

Bristlecone Concerto

Bristlecone Concerto
a concerto for violin and chamber orchestra

Duration: 11'
1983

Instrumentation: solo violin, chamber orchestra (flute/piccolo, clarinet/bass clarinet, oboe/english horn, bassoon, trumpet, trombone, horn, harp, piano, percussion)

"Bristlecone Concerto" was inspired by the ancient Bristlecone Pine trees of the White Mountains of California. Unlike their famous towering neighbors to the south, the Giant Sequoias, the Bristlecones are small and stunted, sculpted into weird gnarled shapes by eons of wind and harsh weather at their 12,000 foot elevation. The landscape at this place is almost lunar in its stark desolation. Carbon dating techniques have determined these trees to be among the oldest living things, some going back thousands of years.

In Bristlecone Concerto, I tried to suggest the peaceful quality of these ancient witnesses, but in the context of their harsh environment. The result is more pastoral than dramatic–or rather, the drama is that of the endless wind, incessant rain and the movement of glaciers. The violin melodies were suggested by the shapes of the Bristlecone Pines themselves.

The piece is a double concerto, with the violin accompanied by an instrumental ensemble and the mandolin accompanied by an "ensemble" of computer-generated and -processed sound. These groups function antiphonally, in alternating tutti and solo sections. Gradually, the ensemble and computer sound becomes less and less prominent and the music is carried more and more by the soloist. Finally, the ensemble and computer sound stops entirely and the soloist plays an energetic extended double cadenza. At the climactic ending of this solo, the ensemble plays alone, providing a gentle, calming effect on the soloist, and recapitulating the principal materials of the piece. After a short cadenza, in which any lingering energy is dissipated, the piece ends in stillness.

This piece was written for Constance Whitman, supported by a Composer's Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Federal Agency.

To order a score and parts contact Terra Non Firma Press