Pastorale was commissioned by the Rocky Mountain Commissioning Project, which was organized by Dr. Alan Mills who also conducted its premiere on February 27, 2016 at the 8th Annual Festival of Winds at Colorado State University - Pueblo. Additional contributing members of the Rocky Mountain Commissioning Project include:
Denver School of the Arts, Dave Hammond Doherty High School, David Williams Fruita Monument High School, Ryan Crabtree Metropolitan State University, David Kish Prairie View High School, Greg Haan University of Northern Colorado, Richard Mayne & Ken Singleton Widefield High School, Eric Colgrove
The piece comes from a conceptual idea I had upon viewing paintings from a series entitled ‘Haystacks’ by the famed French Impressionist painter Claude Monet. The series of 25 canvas paintings featured haystacks as its subject, makes use of different angles of light, perspective, season and time of day to alter the series’ seemingly mundane subject. These paintings were a product of the artists time living in the french countryside of Giverny, France in 1890. I often study and draw inspiration from all art forms to mold my own aesthetic and I thought this series of paintings had many parallels to the construction of music and a great potential for musical experimentation. In the composition of music often a theme, or subject, can remain unchanged while the development can come from the harmony, counterpoint, dynamics, orchestration and rhythm. After seeing the exhibit, a few months before I received this commission, I started experimenting with implementing Monet’s concept musically and spent a good while constructing a perceptively simple melody upon which to use as a central subject. After a few days of sketching I had a complete piece, although it only existed in short-score form; which is just a 5 line sketch with no indications of orchestration. I decided to create an orchestration for string orchestra since the music lends itself to a homogeneous blend of instruments, which is the strength of a like-instrument ensemble (much like clarinet ensemble or a choir of voices). The String version of the piece was premiered in a church by a chamber orchestra while I was finishing my masters in the DC metro area. But the music was so versatile, and I thought that I should make a version of this music for concert band. A week after the premiere of the string orchestra version, I (rather serendipitously) received a commission from Dr. Alan Mills and the Rocky Mountain Commissioning Project. The resulting orchestration for concert band sounded like a totally different piece, with a much wider range of colors and textures.
Musically, the piece takes the theme/subject and presents it initially bare and unaccompanied; heard first by the euphonium. The first repetition of the melody is heard in the English Horn, in duet with the Bassoon as we begin the juxtaposition by adding one complimentary line of counterpoint to the theme. In the next repetition the orchestration gets fuller and a single low note is sustained beneath the theme changing the feel and sound of the existing harmonies created by a single subordinate line with the melody. After 3 repetitions of this portion of the melody, a consequent phase of the melody is presented which reaches higher than it’s mostly step based antecedent phrase. At measure 46 (D) the theme is heard in a new way through the use of canonic imitation. With each repetition the theme changes and develops and accumulates more counterpoint and richer harmonies, although largely diatonic thus far. As the music pushes towards its inevitable climax the notes of the theme are altered chromatically with altered harmonies. After this harmonic stretching and tugging it is resolved in an affirming statement of the theme. As the music spins down the theme is recapitulated in quietly before reducing to it’s most basic gestures, effectively disintegrating musically into silence.
In addition to the musical implications of the artistic concept of Monet, I also tried to recreate that which created continuity among these pastoral scenes in the series. In composing this music, it was my intention to portray the stillness of the dawn, the warmth of summer, the bleak and barren winter landscape, the bounty of the spring harvest as I believe this series of painting is about more than haystacks - it is about time, its effects, capturing moments and the immutability of objects, places and ideas immune to the progression of time.