“I consider my Duo for Flute and Piano (written in 1972) to be something of a milestone in my composing. It emerged fully formed from a part of me with which I wasn’t at the time very familiar. It whispered, it cried, it shrieked, when on the surface I had no idea that I was doing any of those things. As has been the case for more than thirty years of composing, my music consistently reveals things to me in advance of their arrival in conscious mind. If the Duo revealed pain and depression, it also revealed a search into mystery, a love of the beautiful, and a penchant for formal construction and precision of detail- all issues which have occupied me in the intervening years, issues which have been the premise of a composer’s life.
“The Duo is in six sections with a coda. Three of these sections bear the heading ‘a mystery,’ referring in whatever way to the great mysteries of the universe and of life. Following the opening ‘mystery’ is an ‘interlude’ for piano solo. The right hand spins an elaborately decorated melody over a sparse accompaniment in the left hand. This ’spinning out’ has its roots mainly in the keyboard music of J. S. Bach. The title of the next section, ‘a sore point; or: a touchy question; or: the unanswered question put another way,’ owes a nod to Charles Ives’ The Unanswered Question.
This music is obsessive, insistent, and clangorous. It goes farther than the listener is comfortable in going, but in so doing, breaks the bonds of anger. The harmonic language is tonal but extremely dissonant. The second ‘mystery’ is a quiet soliloquy for flute with a very sparse backdrop of piano chords. The sound of the Japanese shakuhachi flute is an important influence on this music. A clear C tonality is evident. A ‘fanfare’ of some length leads into the third ‘mystery,’ which is a distant music, having the quality of a candle flame, that is, placid on the surface, yet filled with an inner life. It fades into the coda, which refers to material from the ‘fanfare’ and the ‘interlude.’ There is a gasping, choked quality in the flute, and a dead finality in the piano. The piece ends in a grey and lonely stalemate.”
Program note by David Maslanka