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Among Waves

YEAR: 2018
DURATION: 12 minutes
CATEGORY: Orchestra
INSTRUMENTATION: 2(+picc).2.2.2 - - timpani - strings
PREMIERE: October 20, 2018
Monterey, California
Concertmaster // Max Bragado-Darman
COMMISSION: Monterey Symphony
DEDICATION: Dorothy McIntyre

Program Note:

In June, 2017 I was approached by the Monterey Symphony to compose this work as part of their opening concert celebrating the ocean. In addition, I was told that this work would be paired with Schubert’s 9th Symphony. As a composer and pianist, I have always had a fascination with Schubert; particularly in the way he delivers narrative and how he crafts melody. While there aren’t any direct musical quotes from Schubert’s symphony in Among Waves, there are a few elements of the piece that are crafted as a tribute to the great composer and certainly Schubert’s concepts of lyricism and storytelling are deeply embedded in the architecture of this work. It was my intention to create a piece of art that pays homage to the past while simultaneously staring boldly into the future.

As part of the commission, I was given the opportunity to stay at the Big Sur Land Trust, graciously hosted by Todd Farrington. The idea of this weeklong residency was to collect inspiration, experience nature, explore, and write. It was during my time in Big Sur that I realized the importance of nature as a teacher and it was in Big Sur where Among Waves took shape.

Structurally, this work consists of three continuous movements; each capturing a different aspect of the ocean while maintaining the constant theme of overlap: Overlap of musical elements such as harmony, rhythm, and melody, as well as overlap of history and influence.

The Tide focuses on overlapping orchestral color and blocks of harmony. Throughout the movement, string harmonics and the winds are blurred together, creating both a kaleidoscopic wash of color and merging of harmony.

Flowing Even in Stillness explores the overlapping of rhythms. Various divisions of the beat on a rather miniscule level topple over one other to create a sort of kinetic energy that permeates this movement and flushes into the final one.

Silver Wall overlaps large chunks of motifs. The movement was largely inspired by two phenomena: 1) the beam of light that resonates out of a wave the split moment before it capsizes and 2) the rock formations touching the ocean that to me, resemble waves frozen in time. Themes and fragments from earlier movements make their way into the whirlpool of energy that thrusts heroically to a final crash, simultaneously setting the stage for Schubert’s Great Symphony.

The narrative arc of the piece takes a journey from land out to sea. The Tide begins with the briskness of the ocean at dawn as it churns and years, cyclically grooming the shore. As the story continues further out to sea, waves become more active. Melody quickly becomes consumed by the gravity of the ocean and is spat out in the form of bursting rhythmic energy and a melodic contour based on that of the churning theme in the opening movement. It is also here where the entire orchestra finally unites and propels towards one final crash on the other side of the ocean.

Among Waves is dedicated to Dorothy McIntyre without whom this piece would not be possible.