Undercurrent (2018) for Pierrot and Percussion

Undercurrent begins with a six-note motive that is established as an ostinato that runs throughout the piece. Other brief motives play over the ostinato, pulling it in many directions, with the quiet, plodding motion occasionally punctuated with sudden outbursts. The ostinato changes over time, further pulling apart from the textures above it, but as the notes that make up the ostinato change, so to do the notes making up the other material: no matter what direction these currents are going, they are all made up of the same stuff. When the currents finally align, a calm emerges from the busy texture. Motives that arose from the ostinato are stated without it before the ostinato gradually returns. The initial ostinato returns, but this time the currents converge and the piece ends.

Premiered 5 April 2019 by Ensemble Concept/21 at Indiana University South Bend.

The Trickster (2018) for Wind Quintet

This playful and somewhat sinister rondo showcases the capabilities of all five instruments. 

Abstractions: Miniatures No. 3 (2017) for String Quartet

This set of miniatures are all written somewhat serially, based on a six-note collection. The pieces alternate between expressionistic and free-form pieces (Prologue, Lament, Dialogue, and Epilogue) and classical-form pieces (Symphonia, Fugue, Canon, and Cantus Firmus). The set is unified both by the process used to compose it as well as the bleak soundscape it presents, broken only by a small number of major chords in the later movements.

Premiered on 9 June 2018 by the Euclid Quartet at the Mostly Modern Festival.

Reflections: Miniatures No. 2 (2013) for Flute, Clarinet, Horn, Vibraphone, Piano, Violin, Viola, and Cello

The five miniatures that make up this set all have some sort of symmetrical element to them. The Prologue is an impressionistic meditation on a whole tone scale, which abruptly transposes up a semitone before it ends.

The second piece, “Warcry,” is in two sections, one being an angry and shrill melody with a repetitive motto underneath, both based on the double harmonic scale and the other on the octatonic scale. The third piece, “Shards,” is a twelve-tone composition based on an invariant row—one that is the same in retrograde inversion.

The fourth piece, “Breathing,” is a series of six chords played three times with varying orchestrations. The Epilogue is a reprise of the Prologue, starting exactly where it left off, and developing the material until it transposes back down for a recap of the opening—and an extremely unsatisfying ending.

Impressions: Miniatures No. 1 (2011) for Clarinet, Viola, and Tuba

This cycle of three miniatures combines an unusual instrumentation with impressionistic tonality and expressionistic texture to create a subdued and dark atmosphere. The 2011 version consisted of three pieces: I. Fire and Earth, II. Noise, and III. Deluge. The 2017 version renames them and switches II and III: I. Flames across the water, II. A Gentle Deluge, and III. Schizoid Noise.

            The first miniature, “Flames across the water,” starts with a brief pointillistic gesture before the tuba states the primary motive, an angular and tuneless theme, which is then echoed in the clarinet. The tuba melody becomes more ornate as the Viola picks up the motive. The viola recapitulates the motive with the tuba echoing while the clarinet screams trills, after which a whole-tone flourish split between the clarinet and viola lead to a final decrescendo.

            The second miniature, “A gentle deluge,” begins with the viola playing a long harmonic, out of which the clarinet emerges with a melody in the Locrian mode, which the tuba then joins. The clarinet then plays a symmetrical melody under which the tuba and viola play staccato acciaccaturas. This melody repeats, and then the piece ends with a coda that evokes the opening melody with the tuba continuing the acciaccaturas and the viola playing harmonics.

            The third miniature, “Schizoid Noise,” starts with screaming trills on the clarinet and another tuneless motivic melody in the tuba. The clarinet and viola reprise the melody, and then the tuba and viola repeat it with different rhythms, with the tuba part being incredibly angular and difficult. The piece then falls apart and cadences, unsatisfyingly, on a major thirteenth chord.

2011 version premiered at the IU South Bend New Music Ensemble Concert, 22 April 2012. Revised 2017.

© 2019 by Alec J Radecki.

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