Bismuth: Variations for Orchestra is the product of a desire to compose a piece with a high degree of abstraction, many of my recent works having been heavily informed by extramusical sources. Loath to entirely abandon my affinity for intertextuality, however, I titled the work Bismuth in order to highlight the kinship between its own colorful, angular style and the kaleidoscopic patina and geometric edges of a pure bismuth crystal. Musically, the work is laid out in a large arch form with an opening theme and seven continuous variations. Each successive variation is in fact a variation upon its predecessor rather than directly upon the theme, and thus it is the distinctive characters of each variation, rather than the musical materials being treated, that are primarily responsible for articulating the work's form. After the first three variations—a bombastic and martial Interlude, a grimly humorous Scherzetto, and a lyrical Arioso respectively—the theme is restated verbatim amidst a tumultuous and dramatic accompaniment in the central fourth variation. Subsequently, the characters of the first three variations are revisited in reverse order for the final three variations, and the work concludes with a brief and choked-off recapitulation of its opening bars. Bismuth was composed between October and November 2013 in Manhattan and Wallkill, New York.
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