1 July 2005
Chicago Symphony Orchestra/James Conlon
Highland Park, IL
Newly Drawn Sky is a lyrical, reflective piece for orchestra, a reminiscence of the first summer night by the ocean spent with my young twins (who were six months old when the work's initial inspiration came to me), and of the changing colors of the summer sky at dusk. While the work is not programmatic or specifically descriptive, it reflects a constancy of change and flux musically and personally.
The piece begins with chromatically shifting three-note chords in the foreground that move upwards through the strings, then enlarge into the horns and winds as a background to a long, singing line in the violas. These chords and their shifts between diatonic and chromatic voice-leading are a fundamental element in the formation of the work.
Short bursts of quick, scherzando music which grow larger in orchestration alternate with continuations of the increasingly expressionistic singing melodic line and rhythmically punctuated brass and percussion outbursts. A chaotic culmination leads to a return of open fifths (the first notes of the piece) in the full orchestra and metal percussion.
The calm middle section of the work features serene melodic writing in the winds and solo trumpet, underpinned by undulating, slow moving harmonies in the strings. The opening lyrical line returns in the strings and leads upwards to a brief interruption, a transformation of the scherzo-like music which quickly vanishes into a full return of the opening music which grows into a vast landscape of sound in the entire orchestra, leading upwards once again to a short, intense climax. Newly Drawn Sky closes with a simple, consonant coda, which gradually and lyrically calms the memory of tensions that have surfaced over the course of the work.
Newly Drawn Sky is roughly 16 minutes long. It was premiered by the Chicago Symphony at the Ravinia Festival in July, 2005 and was commissioned by Welz Kauffman and the Ravinia Festival in honor of James Conlon's first season as music director.
Aaron Jay Kernis