A Body, Moving [World Premiere]
Born: 1984, Huntington, New York
Composition History: 2020–21, on commission from the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, with support from Ann and Harry Santen.
Instrumentation: solo trumpet and tuba, 2 flutes (incl. alto flute), English horn, 2 clarinets (incl. bass clarinet), bassoon, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, almglocken, bass drum, bicycle pump, cabasa, crotales, gongs, sandpaper blocks, sizzle cymbals, snare drums, vibraphone, harp, piano, strings
My new concerto, A Body, Moving, draws its title from an epistolary poem written by the poet Natalie Diaz to her friend and fellow poet Ada Limón. Her whole title, “Isn’t the air also a body, moving?” beautifully summed up my approach to this piece, which is a celebration of brass, but perhaps more than anything else a celebration of the movement of air through the room.
In the era of Covid-19, we’ve all suddenly become acutely aware of the air’s flow and its ability to make one another ill; I sought to create a piece, instead, that celebrates the air, the thing that animates so much making of music, be it singing or playing of brass and wind instruments. I am delighted that we can share this piece in front of real live audiences—something I truly took for granted until it was gone.
The opening movement starts with the air sounds of the solo trumpet and tuba, which are imitated and passed around the orchestra by a multitude of percussionists and brass players until the whole band becomes a rhythmic machine.
The second movement features what Diaz calls “envelope[s] of air.” I imagined the sound of the tuba played in reverse (a quick swell from nothing to “ff”) and I orchestrated a slow-moving passacaglia that trades these swells between the tuba and the trombones.
The final movement brings back the rhythmic air sounds from the first movement and is gradually joined by a slowly moving tuba line that moves ever downward towards the lowest A it can play, closing the work.