Unquiet Night (2008)

Instrumentation:  clarinet, violin, cello, and piano

Duration: 15:00

Commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra

Premiered at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; September 23, 2008.

Notes: I began composing Unquiet Night in May of 2007, shortly after a mile-wide EF5 tornado scraped the little town of Greensburg from the face of the Kansas prairie. Though not about the Greensburg tornado, the piece reflects the melancholy and disquiet that pervaded my mood as I composed it. The work is for clarinet, violin, cello, and piano, the same instrumentation used by Oliver Messiaen in his famous Quartet for the End of Time. While the Messiaen is a multi-movement work, I chose to construct my piece in one continuous movement consisting of five sections.The structure is that of an arch, which, using letters to represent the sections, can be represented as A-B-C-B-A. The opening section (A) is characterized by falling melodies, long pedal tones, and downward-drifting parallel augmented-major7th (D-F#-A#-C#) chords in the piano. The B section opens with a short piano solo and presents a slightly faster tempo and somewhat less melancholy mood. The A material returns briefly to serve as a transition into the stormy central C section, which is initiated by the piano. A short, static bridge leads back to the melancholy B section, and the piece closes with the restless and sorrowful A section. A sense of momentum is maintained, as the B and A sections have been intensified by compression upon their return.

Interview: Winner of the Kansas Arts Commission competition for the National Symphony Orchestra to  choose composers from the states in which they are touring to write chamber works. I intended to write another wind quintet, but they ultimately assigned the ensemble.

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