• Mel Powell
  • Modules: An Intermezzo for Chamber Orchestra (1985)

  • G Schirmer Inc (World)
  • 1111/210+btbn.0/2perc/hp.cel(pf)/str
  • 15 min

Programme Note

Composer Note:

An author recently described his latest short story as a work full of poetic oddities exploring a range of impossibilities. That description would fit nicely here.

But program-note protocol demands less exhilaration. First of all, then: Inverted commas surround the key work of the title in deference to Nabokov’s rule that a word so enveloped means that the writer has failed to find the right word.

Yet from the technical standpoint it is scrupulously informative. The small units making up the work are independent rather than continent entities, equivalent with respect to essential content and self-containedness, while appearing throughout under continual transformation. Such structural sublevels and associational mazes, governing connectedness over local disjunction, are reflected at the sounding surface, where continuous garden-variety pulsing will be perceived as among the things this music tends to tilt away from.

Conditions for the description of music are so illiberal that description here tends to be more refractory than that which it purports to describe. For, on the whole, the schedule of occurrences in this work, the over-all trajectory, is fairly simple and transparent. Even on first hearing this is likely to be sensed, along with the fact that the soloistic disposition of the work, befitting chamber-music ideals, is emphatic. Each of the sixteen players comes to the fore; each commands an independent voice.

Regarding the term Intermezzo, the usual attributes inhere: a comparatively brief, modest work.

What is immodest is the set of demands, not merely virtuosic, confronting the ensemble. IN this regard, Mr. Mosko and the group of Los Angeles Philharmonic players may mislead the listener, for difficulties seem not so difficult when attended to by such superb musicians. The memory of individual and collective triumphs achieved by many in the present ensemble last summer with Boulez often came to mind as I was at work on the score. That pleasant memory generated and sustained confidence that where I might fail they would not.

—Mel Powell