Up was completed in the Spring of 2013. I had this piece on my 'back burner' so to speak for months prior and hadn't really had the time to sit down and develop it the way I'd like. But the frame work was there. And when my colleague and musical friend from IUP, Seth Wollam contacted me about and we were talking about a piece, I knew I had to finish it. So after a few days of hard work I had completed the work. This composition was inspired by a picture of hot air balloons I saw. I've always enjoyed hot air balloons, the way they float in the sky and the bright colors of the balloons.
The work is a study of sorts in contrast and harmony, although those two elements are not the only focus. 'Up' spins together beautiful melodies, fresh harmonies, a relentless ostinato, whimsical solos, and moments of pure exaltation and affirmation. The piece begins with the 2 bar ostinato played by such a small and seemingly insignificant voice of the ensemble, the sand blocks. The percussion comes in and plays what will be the harmonic backbone of the piece. Additional percussive colors are added, with the Hi-Hat reinforcing the sand block rhythm and the kick drum adding another punctuated layer. Out of all this emerges a single clarinet that plays a carefree melody that seems to take its time in comparison to all the rhythm twittering around it. The flutes and piccolo add to this with short burst of notes at a hushed dynamic like so many gentle gusts of air. After a short flutter from the clarinet soloist and the crotales and piano the solo line is slyly taken over by the solo oboe. The murmuring line in the flutes and piccolo culminate in a unison gesture with the crotales and piano presenting the upper woodwinds adding to the ostinato layer. The euphoniums, bassoons and tenor sax then play the melody earlier played in the solo clarinet and oboe. This time with a fuller and more robust sound, and the melody is traded off and more activity is added and added. Then music gets denser and gains intensity until the entire bottom of the band drops out resulting in a moment of weightlessness until the bottom instruments re-enter. The percussion takes over beating the unwavering ostinato figure until it's pushed to it's limit and a fanfare like explosion is played by the winds and brass that will foreshadow events soon to come later in the music. The brief section transitions from a decay of a residual cluster in the horns and clarinets while the ostinato is quietly reiterated in the glockenspiel and flutes. Out of the decay new music presents itself in a simple form, a melody in the clarinets with a contrapuntal line in the bassoons and bass clarinet. More counterpoint is added and the clarinets begin a flowing line of eight notes that weave in and around the melody while more instruments are added in and the musical soundscape begins to bloom into a tutti statement of the melody. The noble sound of the horns and trombones then echo a short cell of this melody and the muted trumpets restate the earlier fanfare. Everything cuts out and the muted trumpets draw in the attention of the ear with a diatonic cluster based on the notes of the harmonic ostinato found in the first portion of the piece. The cluster crescendos and the rhythmic drive returns and we are drawn back into the earlier music, but now instead of its bright major harmony the harmonic ostinato is now juxtaposed with a mellow natural minor sounds with broad shifting chords in the low brass and winds. On top of this dual texture appears a solo saxophone with a smooth and introspective line which is then paired with the solo flute. The line evolves and returns the brighter harmony we remember from earlier. The music builds and builds until the fanfare-like explosion returns catapulting us into the thrilling conclusion of the piece in a brilliant life-affirming moment that grows and exhausted the ostinato to a point of collapse leaving only the solo sand blocks that seem to disappear in the wind, or in this case the rain stick, resulting in a powerful yet breathtaking ending.
On a personal level, 'Up' was written at a time when my career was beginning to flourish before my eyes and it seemed like everything was going my way for a change. My music was being performed regularly and I had gained the respect of a lot of musicians and composers that I had idolized only a few years ago as a teenager (and whom I still idolize!). To me gaining this respect and being seen as a serious artist and musical colleague was one of the high points of my life. The thrill of seeing your dreams come true and your hard work and dedication to craft paying off is a personal joy unsurpassed by any other in my life.