The Cloths of Heaven
for SATB choir
Shadows & Light
Instrumentation: *2222/4331/timp, 2 perc, pn, hp/strgs
Composition Date: 2000
Commissioned: Edmonton Symphony Orchestra
Premiered: by Jerome Summers and the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra on Sunday, November 19, 2000 at the Francis Winspear Centre for Music, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Some pieces have a very straight and logical development and others take a more twisted path. Shadows & Light belongs to this latter category. The piece has three main sections which I composed in the order two, one, three. After completing this material I felt the first section needed its own introduction. After composing this busy string texture I felt the whole work needed a slow introduction (see I told you it was twisted). This all leads to a piece that has the form slow introduction, fast string transition, 3 main sections and coda.
The material for the first main section comes from a single chord. The chord consists of a series of open fifths with the addition of a dissonant note. When I found this sonority I thought it would make a nice flashy series of repeated brass chords, and that's exactly how I use it. The upper brass and winds repeat this chord while the lower instruments interject with a base line. The notes of the bass line are chosen so that each note alters the function of the repeated chord.
The second section is also harmonically based. The original material is taken from a choral piece of mine entitled "The Cloths of Heaven." I open that work with the choir singing a series of chords using a closed to open-mouthed syllable. This was always one of my favorite moments in this piece so I decided to adapt and modify it to an orchestral texture. Now the progression takes on a minimalist feel. On top of this texture I add a long sweeping melody in the cellos and horns. This section builds to a bold climax that then wind’s down into the third section.
This slow section changes the musical focus from harmony to counterpoint. Here I wanted alternate long lines in the string section with some of the gestures from the introduction. This slow section then leads into the coda. The coda begins with some more of the minimalist texture and then finishes with the bright brass chords.