• bcl, perc, pf, hp, vn, va, vc
  • 14 min

Programme Note

Composer note:
Paintings VII embraces a wide array of aesthetical and compositional characteristics. Many of these characteristics synthesize and refine musical ideas that are explored and developed in Paintings II, IV, and VI.

The dominant character of Paintings VII is abstract and it is undoubtedly the most intense and complex composition in the Paintings series. Its complexity is sustained and reinforced by a metric-temporal undercurrent which rapidly develops and continually transforms. At times this rapidity develops and continually transforms. At times this rapidity evokes a veritable “explosion” of musical energy and intensity. Architecturally, the work is divided into three sub-movements and a set of polyphonic cadenzas which are compressed together, forming a single movement. A virtuoso concerto-like (or concertante) treatment of the bass clarinet, percussion, and piano pervade the work is given its greatest elaboration during extended polyphonic triple-cadenza. Many of the most intricate compositional details include the presentation of timbre melody, metric proportions, the partitioning of in-time/out-of-time elements (notable in the third section) and the exploration of very complex polyphony derived from numerical relationships which help to control linear details on both the macro and micro (moment to moment) levels. The bass clarinet, percussion, and piano (concertante group) are often given the most powerful musical status, transversing the widest gamut of emotional conflict, and responding as principal antagonists within the entire ensemble scenario. At times, however, the percussion dominates all and is given moments of action which seek dramatic supremacy and eminent musical status within both the concertante group and the entire ensemble. The percussion seeks its own personal dominion and its musical discourse erupts in highly ornate musical gestures and polyrhythmic patterns. Nonetheless, it should not be inferred that the remaining instruments are treated with less significance. To the contrary, they have their say in quite important and brilliant fashion, assuming greater and greater importance towards the end of Paintings VII. The sound of sleigh bells adumbrates the final section whereupon a resolution and tendency towards unity becomes increasingly evident, and the multi-leveled conflicts set forth from the beginning are gradually abated.

-- William Thomas McKinley