I’m in Seattle this week for the premiere of my recent work BEAUTY SPREAD UNEARTHLY WHITE, commissioned by Town Hall Seattle, for “Pierrot ensemble,” with soprano Mary Mackenzie, cellist Joshua Roman, flutist Daria Binkowski, clarinetist Bill Kalinkos, violinist (doubling viola) Karen Kim, and pianist David Kaplan. Program includes works by Amir Shpilman, Wang Jie, and Town Music Artistic Director Joshua Roman.
The text for Beauty Spread Unearthly White comes from Walter de la Mare’s poem “Winter,” with its solitary depiction of a fleeting moment of near-perfect light, as day changes to night in a snow-blown landscape. In response to the cold white perfection, I wanted to give over to my obsessiveness about order and clarity, to compose a piece where every note needed to be related to the greater structure in a very direct way, and to subjugate all musical elements to this single idea. Like fractal patterns or crystal structures, a single three-note motive is replicated on seven timescales simultaneously; the overall structure therefore exhibits the same relationships as those in the piece’s shortest note values, and everything in between. My desire in submitting to this rigid process was to mirror the hypnotic clarity and simplicity of de la Mare’s transcendent image.