Panacea

From Wind Repertory Project
Grant Luhmann

Grant Luhmann


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General Info

Year: 2021
Duration: c. 20:30
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Unknown
Cost: Score and Parts - Unknown


Instrumentation

(Needed - please join the WRP if you can help.)


Errata

None discovered thus far.


Program Notes

A panacea, taken from the name of a Greek goddess, is a word that has come to mean a cure for any ailment. I wrote this piece at the time that I was transitioning from a musical to a medical career, and was reflecting daily on what these two areas share in common. Panacea reflects what I found to be common ground between the performing arts and healing.

Panacea, for electronically processed flute and wind ensemble, uses a computer program to capture, transform, and amplify the soloist’s performance in real time. The electronics augment the flute’s abilities, allowing it to duplicate itself endlessly and play notes spanning the entire range of human hearing. Because the electronic manipulation occurs in real time, the soloist is given some passages of partial improvisation which are interpreted differently by the electronics each time the piece is played. The ensemble generally performs the role of expanding upon and extending the electronics. The soloist, electronics, and the ensemble often become indistinguishable from one another.

Though in a single movement, the piece has four continuous sections that each explore a different capability of the electronics. The opening three minutes of the first section are a partially improvised cadenza for flute and electronics alone. The flute begins softly, tentatively exploring the space provided by the electronics. It sets about creating its own orchestra, building a dense chorus of flutes that span the range of the piano keyboard. In this way, it sings its own world into existence.

When the texture of this flute orchestra becomes fully saturated, the band finally enters, seamlessly fitting into the world that came before it. Just as the electronics are a direct extension of the flute, so, too, is the ensemble an extension of the electronics. Increasingly, the ensemble finds its own independent voice, and the flute ascends to its high register to create a sparkling filigree over the singing of the ensemble it brought into existence.

The activity finally winds down, and the flute finds itself alone again, this time without much aid from its electronic duplicates. Thus begins the second section of the piece, a meditation on white noise and the sound of wind through leaves. The texture shimmers, yet remains hushed and reserved.

Eventually, the texture darkens, as though a cloud has passed over the scene, and the flute finds itself in opposition to the saxophones -- the first time it has ever conflicted with the ensemble it created. The flute seeks to establish its voice again before plummeting abruptly into its lowest register, beginning the third section of the piece.

In this section, the flute plays alone with electronics again, with four electronic copies of itself murmuring like organ pedals at the bottom reaches of human hearing. The low brass joins in its deepest register, lending a sense of vastness to the texture. A chorus of brass enter, layers are added, and the flute gradually accelerates. The ensemble builds in independence and confidence for several minutes before the accumulating energy is released in the only rhythmically-driven passage in the entire piece. This moment is a crystallization—an apotheosis—of material that has come before.

But before too long, this brightly shining crystal sublimates, vanishing into air sounds and hushed energy similar to the second section of the piece. This transitions to the fourth and final section, in which the flute plays a chant-like, glacially slow melody accompanied by itself in canon four octaves down. The atmosphere remains ponderous, still, and the ensemble joins for the last few moments to bid this place farewell. On the last chord, the soloist extends a gently oscillating pattern of chords and is given the privilege of selecting the chord that the piece ends on. Thanks to the electronics, Panacea can end on a different harmony every time it is performed.

Rather than having a single leading voice, Panacea often instead is a wash of sonorities. Melodic fragments surface from time to time, only to duck back beneath waves of dense sound. I invite listeners to explore these textures freely and, rather than listen for a single melodic voice, let their ears settle on whatever catches their interest at the moment.

- Program Note by composer


As a newer member in the band, I searched for hours to find a flute concerto that spoke to me as a musician. After no success, I set my mind to commission my own flute concerto that reflects my passion and love of sharing music with people. Grant Luhmann kindly offered to make that happen and composed the first live-electronically processed flute concerto with wind ensemble that I know of. After almost two years in the making, I’m thrilled to finally share the world premier with you.

- Program Note by Meera Gudipati


Media

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State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


Performances

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  • United States Coast Guard Band (New London, Conn.) (Adam Williamson, conductor; Meera Gudipati, flute) - 10 October 2021 *Premiere Performance*


Works for Winds by This Composer


Resources