(excerpt only–near end)
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VIEW SCORE:UNDER THE WILD SKIES (SCORE–PDF)
INSTRUMENTATION: Large Orchestra (4-2-3-3, 4-3-3-1, timp, hp, pno, 5 perc, strings)
You never enjoy the world aright,
til the Sea itself floweth in your veins,
till you are clothed with the heavens
and crowned with the stars,
and perceive yourself to be the sole heir
of the whole world.
I had already begun to work on a piece for orchestra when I discovered this quotation by Thomas Traherne, a 17th-century British poet and leader of a small Christian metaphysical movement. I find a certain kinship with Traherne and his writings, which express a Zen-like reverence for and joy in the oneness of all things, and I, like Traherne, find a special wonderment and spiritual significance in naturalism and cosmology.
Under the Wild Skies is a one-movement piece of nearly 20 minutes, and is in some ways its own universe, built from the smallest of musical fragments—2nds (steps) and perfect 5ths, the most basic musical intervals. From these smallest elements, a rich palette of harmonies is established, beginning with swirling sets of 5ths that hint at the possibilities inherent in the combinations of these intervals. Out of this nebulous beginning arises a melody made of 2nds and 5ths, which after this first presentation is nearly always present—in its original form, or inverted, or developed and expanded upon. These basic materials create, at various times, moments of delicate beauty, forceful cataclysm, uncertainty, and finally exultant joy of being one with the world—the sea, the sky, the stars, and all the miraculous ordinary things we rarely see—until we learn to enjoy the world aright.