Duration: 11 minutes
Commissioned by the Jerome Composers Commissioning Program of the American Composers Forum
In the years following World War I, pacified nations found themselves amidst a surplus of aircraft--remnants of a military industrial complex technologically years beyond the primitive weapons from past conflicts of bygone eras. The world stood poised on the brink of irreversible change as the coming decades would shrink continents and oceans as distant, remote outposts became familiar destinations and layovers. Advertisements tried to convince a skeptical public of the merits of air travel. One such ad advocated the aesthetic pleasures of air travel, as one could look down from his or her window to behold the vast "solitary deserts of infinite space."
This work captures for me the proximity between the romance of pioneering new technology, and the frightening and sometimes unpredictable repercussions of the sheer power we harness at a seemingly breathtaking pace in our creations. This 11 minute experience presents a brash, bold exposition of themes at once weightless and heaven-bound, and then delivered to the inevitable grasp of gravity--plummeting, earthbound. In constructing many of the melodic themes I contrasted familiar diatonic scales with 'artificial' octatonic (alternating half and whole steps) scales, lending the sound world a surreal ambience. In this sonic tapestry fact (familiar scales) intermingles with fiction (octatonic scales) in surprise fits and bursts, at once leading the listener down a predictable path only to have that path subverted. A victim to the air currents, the listener must ultimately decide whether the 'landing' is adequately safe or bone-chillingly perilous!
Concert Premiere: January, 2005 by the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony, Bernard Rubenstein conducting. The recording here features the Newton Symphony Orchestra, with James Orent conducting.