Indiana University New Music Ensemble
David Dzubay, Conductor
In Awaking the Winds (1993), I consciously pursued a very different aesthetic direction from that taken in most of my compositions written before and since. Perhaps a first-time listener would, therefore, find it enlightening — in view of the work’s raison d’etre —- to learn what I attempted not to do.
My music in recent years has often been highly programmatic, typically drawing its inspiration from literary sources. Despite the rather evocative nature of its title, Awaking the Winds is, on the other hand, decidedly “absolute”; that is, it contains no extramusical associations.
Musical borrowing has also played a significant role in my instrumental compositions for over two decades. The tonal language of those pieces involving quotations has been determined in large measure by the tonality of the borrowed fragments around which the entire work or a single section was built. Thus, my music has tended to be quite eclectic, mixing atonal passages with those based firmly in the major-minor tonal system. Awaking the Winds utilizes no conscious quotations, and the tonality — best, if vaguely, described as “freely chromatic” — is consistent throughout.
The majority of my pieces have been characterized by a delicacy of gesture, a sensitivity to timbral subtleties and an “eastern” approach to the handling of time and space. As a consequence, they have been essentially monophonic and have relied heavily on a large and exotic collection of percussion instruments to initiate and sustain events. By comparison, this anomalous composition is primarily polyphonic in conception and employs only a few mallet percussion instruments that serve merely as extensions of the keyboards.
Finally, recent works have frequently consisted of a series of individual and relatively short movements, each of which was complete in itself. Awaking the Winds, however, is a single-movement composition dominated by several diverse ideas that evolve organically throughout.
Such a radical departure from an aesthetic I have long embraced should by no means be seen as a repudiation of my other efforts…nor, certainly, did it signal a permanent philosophical shift. In writing Awaking the Winds, I sought only to eschew that which was comfortable and familiar and to explore compositional techniques and procedures that, while certainly not innovative, presented new challenges for me in my growth as a composer.