Through Wind and Whispers
Winner of Honors Competition at Michigan State University.
Premiered on March 17, 2015 by the Michigan State University Symphony Band.
Available for purchase through Murphy Music Press:
Premiere Performance Recording:
Through Wind and Whispers tells a story of transformation.
I often think of a person’s life as a story, a personal narrative. What if a person seeks new direction in his story? Can the course of a narrative change? Can it turn from one of defeat to one of joy? Can beauty emerge from the ashes of affliction?
Imagine a melody that represents the power to ignite change. Can that melody turn a story of despair into a story of hope?
The piece begins with a somber musical theme: the original story. This theme is gradually transformed into something new and brighter: a fully redeemed theme. The original, somber theme is first heard in the English horn and later in other solo instruments throughout the work. In its original state, this theme is dark and harmonically dissonant. It can be heard as a motive that strives to turn into a flowing melody, but fails to do so on its own. The transformation of this dark theme into a more flowing and brighter one happens through the power of an outside influence. I call this outside influence the “melody of grace.”
Sometimes the melody of grace is a gentle whisper while at other times it shows up in the work as a powerful force. Slowly, parts of this melody appear as specks of light within the environment of the original, dark theme. Eventually, both this dark theme and melody of grace collide as the woodwinds play flourishes from the former theme, while the low brass play the powerful and sustained grace melody below them. With help from the snare drum, the sustained melody played in the low brass drives away the dissonant woodwind flourishes and leaves only the melody of grace, which is played as a chorale. Following the chorale, continued transformation of the original theme is heard in various solos until the English horn is heard again, this time together with the oboe playing a transformed version of the original dark theme. The original theme, which was once dissonant against the melody of grace, has been fully transformed and now reflects the outside melody that molded it.
The piece ends with praise. Defining characteristics from the original theme, such as the use of 6/8 meter and dissonant woodwind flourishes, return throughout this final section, this time in a brighter context, as though enjoying a state of redemption. The melody of grace now appears in 6/8 meter and statements of this melody by the low brass are heard juxtaposed against consonant versions of the woodwind flourishes. There is one last reiteration of the transformed theme and a final whisper of the melody of grace.