Symphony No. 4 (Mason)
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Subtitle: Strange Time
Duration: c. 23:15
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Masonian Publications
Cost: Score and Parts - Unknown
Movements (played without pause)
1. Passages of Time – 2:25
2. The Divide Between Light and Dark – 2:05
3. Toward the Event Horizon – 1:40
4. Time Frozen
5. Out of Time – 2:05
Flute I-II- III
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
B-flat Bass Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Saxophone
E-flat Alto Saxophone
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
(percussion detail desired)
None discovered thus far.
I decided that I wanted to compose a large-scale work using an expanded wind ensemble (with harp and organ, two tubas and an English horn and contrabassoon in the woodwinds, but notably excluding euphoniums -- at least for now) that reflected my interest of time travel and space/time phenomena. It's something that I have been fascinated with for a while and curious as to whether it would work in a musical context. The first thing I had to do was my research. I remember when I was younger reading books such as H.G. Wells' The Time Machine and Jon Scieszka's series Time Warp Trio, which then inspired me to research paradoxes such as the Predestination Paradox and the Grandfather Paradox. The idea that one little action you take in the past can alter the future significantly appealed to me, and piqued my curiosity.
Then came the composition of the piece. I knew that I wanted to depict a journey into a space time continuum complete with a trip into an event horizon. I wanted to challenge the very idea of the perception of time and reality.
My new symphony is set in five movements played continuously without pause. The first, Passages of Time, begins with a murmuring line in the woodwinds, which continues as the brass enter with a solemn fanfare, depicting the time traveler. This chorale is heard in four out of the five movements, and acts as the catalyst that affects all the musical events around it.
The second movement, The Divide Between Light and Dark, contains contrasting sections of brightly colored and darkly hued music. Here, we've arrived in the time space continuum and are looking at contrasting universes.
In the third movement, we take a trip Toward an Event Horizon. The feel of this music is frantic and energetic, as it doesn't know whether it wants to speed up or slow down. As a result, some instrumental voices push ahead in the texture; others fall back. In theory, when one approaches an event horizon, the person observing the subject entering it sees them slow down before they come to a complete stop. However, to the subject entering, they are actually speeding up. So how did I represent this in the music? Near the end of this movement, the music has the sensation of speeding up but the conductor's beats slow down until the music comes to a complete stop.
The fourth movement, Time Frozen, isn't conducted at all. The craziness of the third movement and steadily building brass chorale from the first movement has pushed the music over the edge and into a void. As this music is completely aleatoric, I encourage the musicians to improvise to give the music a sense of timelessness.
In the fifth and final movement, we're Out of Time. After the timelessness of the fourth movement, we return to order but less rigid and more freely. The brass chorale returns again twice, this time quieter and tranquil before the music fades into abyss and we're left with the return of the murmurings of the first movement. This fades into a calm woodwind chorale with solo celesta flourishes, and finally ends with a distant organ to ponder the journey that we've just been on. It's also a stark reminder that we all eventually run out of time.
I embarked on this composition to create a large-scale work that was in the same vein as a David Maslanka symphony and intended as a companion piece to the fourth, while at the same time reflecting my own unique interests and voice.
This piece was supposed to have its premiere on May 1, 2020, but had to be postponed because of the ongoing pandemic. I sincerely hope to hear this work live someday and when it is performed, hope that it will reach a large audience and make them think deeply about the strange time we are currently living in.
- Program Note by composer
Further extended commentary in blog form by the composer may be found here. It describes the influence of David Maslanka and his Symphony No. 4 on the composer.
None discovered thus far.
To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project
- The Hartt Symphony Band (West Hartford, Conn.) (James E. Jackson III, conductor) - 25 March 2023
- University of Georgia (Athens) Hodgson Wind Ensemble (Nicholas Enrico Williams, conductor) – 16 February 2023 (CBDNA 2023 National Conference, Athens, Ga.)
- Illinois State University (Normal) Wind Symphony (Anthony C. Marinello, conductor) - 4 December 2022
- University of Georgia (Athens) Hodgson Wind Ensemble (Nicholas Enrico Williams, conductor) - 17 November 2022
- University of North Texas (Denton) Wind Orchestra (Andrew Trachsel, conductor) – 25 October 2022 *Premiere Performance*
Works for Winds by This Composer
- Across a Golden Sky (2019). See also: Of Day and Night
- At Evening (2022)
- August Morn (2016-2017)
- Changes/Transitions (2020)
- Dallas Arts District Fanfare (2016)
- Faster (2016/2017)
- Journeys III
- A Joyous Trilogy (2019/2022)
- Scéne de Notre Dame (2022)
- The Sky Searching Within Itself (2022)
- Soul to Soul (2017/2019)
- Symphony No. 4 (2020)
- The Horizon Leans Forward…, compiled and edited by Erik Kar Jun Leung, GIA Publications, 2021, p. 411.
- Quinn Mason website Accessed 26 February 2021