Reflections of the Seasons was inspired by pastoral scenes commonly depicted in Chinese poetry of the Tang Dynasty (618-907 C.E.). While living in Michigan, where the seasons have much more variation than my homeland, I became increasingly aware of the cycles of nature as a metaphor for the human condition. My work evokes the technique of the Tang poets using sounds to describe images associated with each season.
The musical gestures in the first movement, Breaths of Autumn, portray the diverse appearances of falling leaves, different speeds of wind (at times stormy, at other moments gentle), and images of withered and yellowing grass. Changes in speed occur in several musical parameters from individual trills, changing phrase lengths, and flexible tempo shifts within the movement. These all mimic leaves being blown about. In addition, the random paths of leaves are reflected by wandering harmonies that lack direction.
The second movement embodies my impression of the harsh Michigan winter. While the title, In Memory of…, most directly references memorial inscriptions on tombstones, by leaving the phrase incomplete I allow listeners to make their own subjective associations, inviting individual meditations on memory and loss. Suspended high chords in the strings, interrupted by short and fleeting gestures in the woodwinds and brass, create feelings of loneliness. Winter is a dark and sad season; the funeral march that follows leads the listeners along this road of human feeling present in the landscape.
The cycle ends with In Praise of Life, a movement which corresponds to spring and summer. Upward musical gestures, charged and repetitive rhythms, as well as simplified ABA form create a strong sense of relief, energy, and the drive of growth and hope. While the movement comes to an emphatic close, many musical elements also suggest continuation. These include a constant musical pulse and rapid shifts in tonal center up to the final measures, and a metrically unstressed ending. These all suggest that while one season ends, another begins, and this evokes the eternal hope of life itself.
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