orchestra (1998)

duration: 17′

program note

Harmonia was commissioned by the Hopkins Center/Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Co-education at Dartmouth. Anthony Princiotti conducted the premiere on May 23, 1998, at Dartmouth. Its inspiration is personal; at the same time Dartmouth became coed, I went off to college, from the farm near Camden, Alabama where I’d grown up. My world became immensely bigger, as Dartmouth’s must have. I usually write for much smaller ensembles, and exploring the vast orchestral palette intensified my memories of this time, a mixture of nostalgia and gratitude.

The first movement, Doors, represents the many opportunities college offers, an array of choices from the formidable to the exhilarating. Near the end of the movement, the percussion acts as a camera shutter which frames a series of “slides” of open doors. In the second movement, repeated rhythmic patterns and subtly shifting harmonies evoke the Hours spent studying or practicing in a protected academic environment. Here, imagination prospers, and odd insights creep in around the absorption of one’s assigned material. A dream inspired the third movement, The Long Field. In the dream, which was a kind of game, men and women ran headlong from both ends of a long, grassy field toward its center; when they collided, they floated in slow motion up into the air. Both the running and the floating were joyful, and the dream felt and sounded like a physical metaphor for the fruitful collision of active, fertile minds.

Harmonia was completed in March, 1998 at the Liguria Study Center in Bogliasco, Italy.