I composed this piece in two spells, first in January-February 2017, then in November-December. The first version was called Turn, named for the wiggling figure that appears in the tuba part in the 4th measure and suffuses the entire work. In the end, I was unsatisfied with that version, and revisited the piece at the end of 2017 in order to compose a new second half.
In its final form, Incantation plays with the idea of magic – or what appears to be magic – and how a ‘sorcerer’ can capitalize on a chance occurrence to cast a spell over the members of a tribe. The piece is in dialogue with Revueltas’s Sensemaya, a natural starting point given that work’s opening solo for the tuba.
Incantation was commissioned and premiered by the BrassTaps Duo, comprised of Evan Zegiel, tuba, and Anthony DeMartinis, percussion, and sponsored by a consortium of tubists in the University of Michigan tuba studio.
This piece was composed for two very good friends, Andy and Mary Moran, whom I first met in the summer of 2005 at the Pierre Monteux School. Andy was attending as a conductor and horn player, Mary as a member of the viola section, which meant I got to sit next to her in orchestra all summer, which I count among the singular delights I’ve been afforded.
Andy is now Professor of Horn and Orchestral Director at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point; Mary is a musician and staff member with the Central Wisconsin Symphony. The premiere was given at the UWSP School of Music, by Mary and Andy and Janna Ernst on the piano. Shortly thereafter, I travelled to Wisconsin to give further performances (as pianist) both there and in Chicago, and we have since performed it at additional concerts as part of the ARTi Gras Festival in Central Wisconsin.
Nightfall explores the moods of the string body from dusky noir to incandescent ecstasy. The work relies heavily on harmonics, ricochet, barriolage (rapid back-and-forth between strings) as well as more extended string techniques. There are significant solos for the first violin and cello, but each of the parts contains moments of virtuosity.
The piece opens with the violas pizzicato, playing an increasingly complex rhythmic cell. One by one, the other instruments join in and achieve a diabolical climax that introduces the first theme, a rising figure that slithers among the four violin parts. The central section begins timidly but opens into a full-blown romantic melody. The piece concludes with a recapitulation of the opening music and a bracing coda.
Nightfall may be performed an ensemble of as few as 10 players or by a well-balanced string orchestra.