Instrumentation: orchestra (188.8.131.52-184.108.40.206-3pc.1pn.-220.127.116.11.2)
Duration: ca. 8.5′
Program note: Night Blooming began as a sketch for wind octet composed for the Oregon Bach Festival Composers’ Symposium in the summer of 2009. My initial inspiration for the piece came from work of Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008), one of my favorite 20th century artists. For me, Rauschenberg’s work is often about the contradictory idea of “America.” In a wide range of media and styles, Rauschenberg frequently juxtaposes starkly contrasting images communicating the hopeful promise of America—a silkscreened image of JFK, a photograph of an Astronaut, vibrant swaths of primary colors, etc.—against elements depicting the harsh, gray realities of poverty, urban blight, and isolation. In some sense, “Night Blooming” (which takes its name from a 1951 Rauschenberg painting) attempts to communicate this aspect of Rauschenberg’s art. The piece is structured around three quintessentially “American” elements: a Motown-inspired boogaloo rhythm (first appearing in the opening wood block solo and in various guises thereafter), splashes of tonal orchestral color evoking fireworks on the 4th of July, and a pastoral, Coplandesque repeated-note melody. Complicating the picture, however, are persistent (though often subtle) currents of dissonance and metrical ambiguity that counteract the unmitigated sense of idealism these elements suggest.