Movements (played without pause)
1. Ceremony of Innocence - 5:30
2. Augurs - 3:35
3. The Generous Wrath of Simple Men - 3:45
4. The Loving Machinery of Justice - 5:50
5. Spiritus Mundi (epilogue) - 3:10
Flute I-II-III-IV (Flute IV doubles Piccolo)
Bb Soprano Clarinet I-II-III-IV
Bb Bass Clarinet I-II
Alto Saxophone I-II
Bb Trumpet I-II-III-IV
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Percussion I-II-III-IV-V-VI, including:
- Bass Drum
- Crystal Glasses
- Cymbals (china, suspended)
- Mahler Hammer
- Thunder Sheet
- Tubular Bells
None discovered thus far.
Ecstatic Waters is music of dialectical tension -- a juxtaposition of contradictory or opposing musical and extra-musical elements and an attempt to resolve them. The five connected movements hint at a narrative that touches upon naiveté, divination, fanaticism, post-human possibilities, anarchy, order, and the Jungian collective unconscious. Or, as I have described it more colloquially: W.B. Yeats meets Ray Kurzweil in the Matrix.
The overall title, as well as Ceremony of Innocence and Spiritus Mundi are taken from poetry of Yeats (News for the Delphic Oracle, and The Second Coming), and his personal, idiosyncratic mythology and symbolism of spiraling chaos and looming apocalypse figured prominently in the genesis of the work. Yet in a nod to the piece's structural reality -- as a hybrid of electronics and living players -- Ecstatic Waters also references the confrontation of unruly humanity with the order of the machine, as well as the potential of a post-human synthesis, in ways inspired by Kurzweil.
The first movement, Ceremony of Innocence, begins as a pure expression of exuberant joy in unapologetic B-flat Major in the celesta and vibraphone. The movement grows in momentum, becoming perhaps too exuberant -- the initial simplicity evolves into a full-throated brashness bordering on dangerous arrogance and naivete, though it retreats from the brink and ends by returning to the opening innocence.
In movement II, Augurs, the unsustainable nature of the previous Ceremony becomes apparent, as the relentless tonic of B-flat in the crystal water glasses slowly diffuses into a microtonal cluster, aided and abetted by the trumpets. Chorale-like fragments appear, foretelling the wrathful self-righteousness of movement III. The movement grows inexorably, spiraling wider and wider, like Yeat's gyre, until "the center cannot hold," and it erupts with supreme force into The Generous Wrath of Simple Men.
Movement III is deceptive, musically contradicting what one might expect of its title. While it erupts at the outset with overwhelming wrath, it quickly collapses into a relentless rhythm of simmering 16th notes. Lyric lines and pyramids unfold around this, interrupted briefly by the forceful anger of a chorale, almost as if trying to drown out and deny anything but its own existence. A moment of delicate lucidity arrives amidst this back-and-forth struggle, but the chorale ultimately dominates, subsuming everything, spiraling out of control, and exploding.
The Loving Machinery of Justice brings machine-like clarity and judgment. Subtle, internal gyrations between atonality and tonality underpin the dialogue between lyric melody (solo clarinet and oboe) and mechanized accompaniment (bassoons). An emphatic resolution in A-flat minor concludes the movement, floating seamlessly into the epilogue, Spiritus Mundi. Reprising music from movement I, this short meditative movement reconciles and releases the earlier excesses.
- Program Note by Steven Bryant
This work incorporates prerecorded sound cues of percussion and other sound effects that must play precisely with the band. The composer provides the following technical detail:
IN PERFORMANCE: you will need one person to trigger the cues on the computer (i.e., press the keys), one person to sit next to him/her, following the score. A third person monitoring the sound levels at the mixer is helpful, but not absolutely required. All will be seated in the audience, at the soundboard (preferably in the center of the hall).
CLICK TRACK: The conductor will wear a single earpiece with click tracks for each of the cues beginning 2-3 bars before the actual entrance of electronic sound. These clicks are notated in the score in the electronics staff.
The electronic and acoustic sounds must mesh seamlessly throughout the work.
- Program Note from score
None discovered thus far.
Works for Winds by this Composer
- Alchemy in Silent Spaces (2001)
- all stars are love (2014)
- Anthem (Bryant) (2011)
- The Automatic Earth (2019)
- Axis Mundi
- Bloom (2004)
- Chester Leaps In (see Parody Suite)
- Coil (2014)
- Concerto for Wind Ensemble (2010)
- Concerto for Alto Saxophone (2014)
- Concerto for Cello and Orchestral Winds
- Concerto for Trombone 2016
- Concerto for Piano and Orchestral Winds & Percussion (2012)
- Dusk (2004)
- Ecstatic Fanfare (2012)
- Ecstatic Waters (2008)
- First Light
- Impercynations (see Parody Suite)
- Idyll (2013)
- In This Broad Earth (2015)
- In This Broad Earth (for brass ensemble) (2015/2017)
- Interruption Overture (1998)
- Irrational Joy (2017)
- Machine Awakes, The (2012)
- The Marbled Midnight Mile (1999)
- MetaMarch (see Parody Suite)
- A Million Suns at Midnight
- Miniature Suite (2017)
- Nothing Gold Can Stay (2016)
- Parody Suite
- Pendulum (2018)
- Radiant Joy (2006)
- Rise (2003)
- Solace (2012)
- Stampede (2003)
- Suite Dreams (see Parody Suite)
- Whirlwind (2013)
- Wings That Work (2003)
- Nix, Jamie L., "Steven Bryant's Ecstatic Waters for Wind Ensemble and Electronics: Compositional and Performance Perspectives for Conductors" (2010). Open Access Dissertations. 382.
- Steven Bryant website