Subtitle: A Tree Symphony
Movements (movements 1 and 2, and 3 and 4 played without pause)
C Piccolo I-II (doubling Flutes)*
Contrabassoon (or Bass Saxophone substitute)
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III (up to 9 players)
B-flat Bass Clarinet
B-flat Contrabass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
C Trumpet I-II-III (up to 6 players)
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II (up to 4 players)
- Bass Drum
- Bass Marimba
- China Cymbals
- Claves (2)
- Cowbell (low, or Brake Drum)
- Crash Cymbals
- Egg Shakers (2)
- Gongs (5, tuned)
- Slapsticks (2)
- Snare Drum
- Suspended Cymbals (4: large, 2 medium, small)
- Tam-tams (4: small, medium, large, extra large)
- Temple Blocks (5)
- Tom-toms (4)
- Triangles (2)
- Wood Blocks (2)
*Wind numbers indicate best practice
None discovered thus far.
Branching is subtitled, A Tree Symphony. From Richard Powers’s 2018 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Overstory to the recent 50th anniversary of Earth Day in 2020 (that was unfortunately dampened by COVID-19) to my own experience as a product of Treetown, USA -- Ann Arbor, Michigan -- tree imagery has captivated me now as ever. I was coincidentally commissioned in 2019 by the Vocal Arts Ensemble of Ann Arbor for a work commemorating the Earth Day anniversary, premiere postponed, and for both that work and this one I was joyously under the influence of Tree.
Seeding segues into Taproot, and both are concerned with origins. Seeding is the most kaleidoscopic movement of the entire symphony. It represents creation or birth at the cellular level. The turbidity is a composer’s depiction of the mystery of a seed gaining purchase in the ground until it is capable of growing, or the first firing of embryonic life in any circumstance. Both informed my underlying approach to the notes in this section, which entailed an elaborate system of semi-ordered, intertwining key areas.
In our Tree’s life, the first root breaks through the seed, anchoring it and taking in water -- the process of germination. A taproot is developed. The chorale that emerges heralds movement II, Taproot, in the musical form. A muscular B-flat (the ‘root’ of the wind ensemble) underpins a searching, spiraling series of chord progressions.
The Branching movement is a band version of the scherzo of my orchestral Symphony No. 2 (1995–2013), where it is called, more abstractly, moto perpetuo. The opening 35 measures of Branching were written in 1990, during the summer before I arrived in Ann Arbor for graduate school. This intro defines the harmonic world of the entire movement, not far removed from Taproot. There is a burst of self-quotation (heard as a triumphant chorale surprise), which adapts the climactic chord progression of an earlier, nature-worshipping, vocal-chamber work. The music is partially re-contextualized in this Tree Symphony as, one might say, an eight-minute time lapse of the large tree’s growth to maturity -- a reading which certainly agrees with the many branches and motivic blossoming of the musical material. It is a virtuosic showpiece for the ensemble, easily its centerpiece.
The concept of ‘branching’ is also metaphorical considering the various branches of many intertwined connections with the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance as taproot. My personal connection to the school, and its instrumental and composition programs, is vital and primal. I was a student from 1990 to 1996, receiving my Masters and Doctoral degrees in composition with a minor in percussion.
In Flowering, our large Tree lives for decades or centuries. Here we find it in beautiful repose, a watcher in the forest and home to innumerable forms of life. The mighty sentinels of our Earth deserve our love, respect, and care, always. The work is dedicated to Lester Monts, whose more than 20 years of service to UM as senior vice provost for academic affairs and senior counselor to the president for the arts and diversity has ‘flowered’ the environment at Michigan in multiple ways.
- Program Note by composer
(Needed - please join the WRP if you can help.)
None discovered thus far.
To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project
- University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) Symphony Band (Michael Haithcock, conductor) – 19 November 2021 *Premiere Performance*
Works for Winds by This Composer
- Branching (2021)
- Concerto for Electric Guitar and Symphony Band (2000)
- The Four Winds (1985/2013)
- Ghosts of the Revolution (2005)
- James Brown Loops (1993)
- Kaleidoscope (Hause) (1992)
- Rome Under Water (1990)
- Tango Variations (2009)
- Trumpet Concerto (2001)
- Vocabularium (1992)