Landscapes, Series II
I. Tall mountains, rising mists, and Shinto shrine
II. Rain falling on Rice Fields
III. Tokyo in the Distance
Composed for hornist John McGuire, Landscapes, Series II is inspired by Japanese landscape paintings and woodcuts. The melodies are influenced by Japanese Shakuhachi compositions. The first movement depicts a pilgrim climbing a steep and dangerous path to a Shinto shrine located atop a mountain. In the second movement a farmer sits inside his hut waiting for the rain falling on his rice fields to stop. He is neither frustrated nor worried, but patient. In the final movement, the busyness of a large city and the forward momentum of a high-speed train were the inspiration for the tempo and textures, even while fragments of the melodies from the first movement returned. An extended coda, with longer note values and a more sustained piano part, indicate a return to the calmer countryside.
Lines at Dusk: Hymn to the Rising Moon
Lines at Dusk: Hymn to the Rising Moon is a programmatic composition inspired one evening as I sat watching the full moon rise over Lake Catherine in southeastern Louisiana. It was a clear, damp, and cloudless night, and as the moon rose, I felt an odd primal connection to it and to the ancient lunar-oriented cultures. My feeling the entire time I was working on Lines was that lunar worship must have been as fear-inspiring as it was beautiful to behold, and that the risk of not propitiating the goddess was hopefully balanced by her stark beauty.
I owe something to Shelley’s poems “The Waning Moon,” and “To the Moon” for the title and the inspiration, and to the Italian opera composer Bellini and his aria “Casta Diva” from Norma, for the vocal quality of the opening lines, but the indebtedness stops there. The harmonic language of Lines has little in common with Bellini’s aesthetic except the use of harmonic color to convey atmosphere as well as emotion. Where Bellini’s melodies are florid, mine are direct and without the elegance of ornamentation.
Nocturne, for horn and piano, was composed in 2000 for hornist John McGuire’s birthday. Embedded in the chords is the opening melody from Strauss’s Horn Concerto No. 1, which John was working on at the time.
“Batuque” refers to a genre of music and dance associated with coastal West Africa and Brazil. It is considered one of the primary influences on Latin American dance music including samba and the ubiquitous son clave. This two-movement composition explores the heterophonic and “call and response” techniques found in batuque as well as its typical binary structure. A secondary influence is found in the 20th-century works of such luminary composers as Villa-Lobos, Ginastera, Messiaen, and Revueltas. The first movement focuses on the tuneful melodies performed by the kantaderas (singers), while the second movement features the complex polyrhythms of the batukaderas (drummers). — John McGuire
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