“Song Book” is a set of pieces that are songlike – that is, intimate and expressive, though not necessarily quiet. The solo flute feels like a voice to me, a voice which has a complex story to tell, in the form of musical dreams.
The 371 Four-Part Chorales by J. S. Bach have been a long-time focal point for my study and meditation. these chorales are the models for melodic and harmonic movement used by every beginning music theory student. I had my first encounter with them as a college freshman in 1961. Ten years ago I returned to singing and playing them as a daily warm-up for my composing. In that time I have come to experience the chorales as touchstones for dream space. I have used many of them as the jumping off point for my own compositions. The feeling is one of opening an unmarked door and being suddenly thrust into a different world. The chorales are the doors.
I have used three chorale melodies in “Song Book”. The first movement, “A Song of Coming Awake”, is based on “Crist ist Erstanden” (Christ is Risen); the third, “In Loving Memory”, on “Van Gott will Ich nicht lassen” (I never wish to part from God); the fifth, “A Song for the End of Time”, on “O Gott, du frommer Gott” (O Good and Gentle God).
The title of the second movement, “Solvitur Ambulando”, is Latin for “it is solved by walking”. There is a centuries-old tradition that good ideas come while walking. It is a practice that I have used in my creative work for some years. intuition and intellect are engage together by the alternating motion of the limbs. The Danish philosopher Kierkegard wrote: “Above all, do not lose your desire to walk: every day I walk myself into a state of well-being; I have walked myself into my best thoughts…If one just keeps on walking, everything will be all right.”
“In the Crucible of Your Pain” is a title that appeared in my mind as I was writing the fourth movement. I can’t explain it very well. There is a deep sense of struggle – something serious is going on!
Program note by David Maslanka