• 3333/4431/timp+3perc/hp.pf/st
  • 22 min

Programme Note

Out of the Everywhere was commissioned by Meet The Composer and the North Carolina Symphony as part of Stookey’s three-year residency with that orchestra. Gerhardt Zimmermann conducted the work’s first performances on May 2 and 3, 2003.

Out of the Everywhere is built around ten repetitions of a very slow-moving melody that underlies all three of its movements: ‘Quickening,’ ‘Pulse’ and ‘Tides.’ The melody uses all twelve chromatic pitches drawn from a twelve-note chord that is sounded in its entirety only twice in the piece, first at the beginning and again very near the end–both times by the strings. The chord is a tribute to the Polish composer Witold LutosÅ‚awski, and particularly to his work Mi-Parti, in which he used a similar array of twelve pitches to create music of extraordinary beauty. At the beginning of Out of the Everywhere, the twelve-note chord radiates outward from a central point, gradually adding pitches and then subtracting them in reverse. On its second and final occurrence in ‘Tides,’ the chord resolves at last, yielding to the insistent major triads that have been its harmonic foil from the beginning.  

Out of the Everywhere’s underlying 12-note melody, first heard in the flutes and clarinets at the beginning of the piece, takes two full minutes to unfold and is passed to different groups of instruments (in different registers) at each repetition. It can sometimes be heard as melody proper, sometimes as countermelody, sometimes as a slow-moving bass-line. During long stretches of the final movement, ‘Tides,’ it is completely obscured, but it continues to define the harmonic landscape throughout. In fact, in classical terms, all three movements could be said to make up one enormous passacaglia, with each recurrence of the melody inching a half-step higher.

In contrast, the foreground of Out of the Everywhere’s three movements is developmental (as opposed to cyclical) and does not align with the work’s underlying melody. The first movement, ‘Quickening,’ consists of short rhythmic and melodic fragments (some inspired by North Carolina birdsong) that are gradually pieced together. The second, ‘Pulse,’ is more rhythmically driven. The third and final movement, ‘Tides,’ features slow-moving chords and derives much of its melodic material from three nursery songs about the moon: ‘I see the moon and the moon sees me,’ ‘Baby’s boat’s a silver moon,’ and ‘Au clair de la lune.’

As these song titles suggest, I wrote Out of the Everywhere at a time when I was preoccupied with moons and babies! During my wife’s two pregnancies, I was fascinated by the close but asynchronous relationship between gestation – a linear, developmental process – and the ten cyclical lunar cycles that underlie it.

The title for the piece comes from the poem The Baby by George MacDonald, which begins:
   Where did you come from baby dear?
   Out of the everywhere into here.

Out of the Everywhere is dedicated ‘To Jodi, Milton, and ?’

Jodi is Stookey’s wife, and Milton their son. ‘?’ is their daughter, Gertrude, not yet born and not yet named when the work was completed in a delivery room at UNC Memorial Hospital in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She was born in that same room a few hours later.