Parsing the Unknown
for soprano, flute, piano, marimba
A Crimson Dawn is scored for chamber orchestra and was premiered by Orchestre National de Lorraine at the Acanthes festival. The piece was composed immediately following a family tragedy. More broadly, it is a reflection on sudden loss and its powerful psychological repercussions. For the melodic foundation, I composed what I dubbed the "death counterpoint". This is an elongated contrapuntal working of two famous melodies associated with death: the first phrase of the "Dies Irae" and the bassline of “Dido's Lament”. The death counterpoint also forms the basis of a chaconne used throughout the work, colored in different sections by my responses Parsing the Unknown alternates between sensuous, unmetered soprano & flute duets and metered sections containing a succession of chords that are relentlessly repeated with subtle variations in the mode of a chaconne or passacaglia. The piano part is treated as a cantus firmus ostinato in the metered sections, always playing not only the given harmonic cycle but also a repeated rhythmic pattern that continues irrespective of changes in the metrical framing. The various meters used in the composition all exactly divide or parse the basic harmonic cycle (or up to four repetitions of it) into an equal number of component parts. Calculated and controlled metrical dissonance is thus highlighted: between the notated meters and the repeated rhythm of the harmonic cycle. The search for various qualities of metrical dissonance created the foundation of this work. to bereavement.