Instrumentation: fl, ob, cl, b.cl, bsn, s.sax, a.sax, t.sax, b.sax, hn, tpt, tbn, 2 perc, bass, pno
Duration: ca. 5:30
Premiere: April 6, 2015 :: University of Texas Austin Wind Symphony :: Robert Carnochan, conductor
Purchase: Murphy Music Press
Schism is about divisions. I wrote Schism in 2010 in the midst of the turbulent national mid-term elections, a time that, in the context of more recent political turmoil, actually seems quite tame. I was overwhelmingly frustrated by the sophomoric mud-slinging and ridiculous lies being told by many politicians and the variously allied media, but I was also somewhat amused by what was nothing short of a nationwide goat rodeo*. Much of the musical material is transcribed almost note for note from an improvisation I played on the piano and recorded in the early stages of sketching the piece. I remember being interested in combining the pointillism of Anton Webern’s music with a bluesy rock groove, so much of the piece is based on a single, simple, eighth note based, divided melodic line that jumps around the piano in very large leaps. I think of the musical affect as similar to the compound melodies in J.S. Bach’s Unaccompanied Cello Suites, where a single melodic line is perceptually transformed through large leaps into multiple voices, though, in the end, I used the ensemble to actually hold out the notes the piano could not to add color, character, and attitude to the independent voices. I also wanted to play with the notion of groove by dividing it in unusual and unexpected ways, almost like running a few of the licks and grooves through a meat grinder.
Schism was originally written for the chamber orchestra Alarm Will Sound. This version for winds and percussion was commissioned by a consortium of ensembles led by Robert Carnochan and the University of Texas at Austin Wind Symphony as well as Michael Haithcock, University of Michigan; Chris Knighten, University of Arkansas; Steven D. Davis, University of Missouri–Kansas City Conservatory of Music.
*A goat rodeo is a slang term for a chaotic situation, often one that involves several people, each with a different agenda/vision/perception of what’s going on; a situation that is very difficult, despite energy and efforts, in which to instill any sense or order.