Blaze of Autumn

Blaze of Autumn (Five Images from Fall) was inspired by fall in the Midwest. After spending my formative years as a native Californian, I was very impressed with the beautiful fall colors found in Ohio, where I moved for college. This work seeks to capture the magnificence found in autumn as green explodes into radiant reds, oranges, and yellows. There are five brief movements, each an image of a fall scene. I. Dawn's Revelation Early fall is a time of great activity as nature’s inhabitants prepare for winter. This movement reflects these activities with full, active textures, syncopated rhythms, and brief energetic melodies. The beginning of the movement is an imaginary dawn. As the sun peers over the horizon, it beckons the landscape to life, slowly at first, and then in a burst as it summons all to awake. This musical gesture begins in the woodwinds, which are the first hints of the sun on the horizon. The first rays of direct light are represented by the strings and horns. Then, in imitation of the sun revealing itself in its entirety, the entire orchestra enters with an explosive crescendo. The musical materials found in this opening gesture become the fabric of the entire movement. Weaving in and out, they tell the story of a dramatic journey through memories of summer. II. Breath of Frost As fall subtly blows in, first cooler nights and then a hint of frost gradually overtake the warm evenings of late summer. This short movement imagines frost as a delicate, almost imperceptible specter, quiet and understated. Dissonant harmonies shimmer in thin textures. A somewhat lamenting melody wafts across the landscape, first played by a flute, then a solo violin, and lastly, an oboe. The falling harp gesture indicates nightfall as frost gently blows in. This movement is followed by the next without pause. III. Indian Summer The beguiling warmth that always surprises follows "Breath of Frost" with little fanfare. Through a subtle alteration of the held chord in the trombones that spans the two movements, cold dissonance gives way to warmer harmonies and more melodic figures. The brass chorale at the end is a musical depiction of the warmth that Indian summer brings. Simultaneously, ambiguous harmonies outlined by the winds, horns, percussion, and strings hint at the instability and short-lived nature of an Indian summer. IV. Frost's Bite No longer a gentle reminder that winter is on the way, the cold envelops every nook and cranny of the landscape. Foliage's green mantle is stripped away and consumed. An insistent motive, initially introduced by the trombones, is a musical embodiment of the biting quality of the cold. This motive snakes in and out, interrupting the brief passages of lyricism which represent the last stand of spring and summer. V. Blaze of Autumn When the green of spring and summer is stripped away, autumn's glory is revealed. Brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows blaze under the ice-cold sun, offering a harmonious visual symphony for any who will look. This movement is also inspired by sunrise, this time, however, in the heart of autumn. As the sun rises, it brings forth the colors that make autumn so distinctive. These colors appear in the brass first as chorale, then as a horn solo over an undulating string and wind accompaniment. After this movement expends itself, the final, quiet chord ushers in winter’s bleakness.

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ACO Performances

Buffalo Philharmonic Earshot New Music Readings (2011)

February 9, 2011 12:00 am
Kleinhans Music Hall

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