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  • About I Sang to the Sky and Day Broke Op.55

    The title is a line from a poem I wrote, in the dead of winter, decades ago in Buffalo, New York. When Dr Andrew Levin at Clemson University invited me to write the piece for the CUSO, and I started writing the first sketches, this line came to mind, and I knew it for the title. Musically, I wrote the piece the way I did partly because Andrew spoke so warmly of his wind players; and partly because I am a clarinetist myself, and I wrote the kind of piece which I felt I should enjoy playing, and which would be a good challenge to put together. To speak on just a few musical details: When I was told I could use three percussionists, I knew I could keep them busy; Scott Deveaux of Charlottesville, Virginia taught me to love the spirit of African drumming, and I find different applications for what I learned, in different pieces. I seized on the chance to include harp in the ensemble. I suppose I have long wanted to write two clarinets playing a minor second; timbrally, it is one of the most consonant of dissonances, simply a delicious sound.

    Andrew told me he wanted a bright concert-opener, and that suited me perfectly. Maybe some other time I will write a long, brooding piece on the thornier issues of life. Often, I pursue my musical work very much with the thought that there should be more bright music, more exhilirating music, more delightful music, in the world. In preparing myself mentally for the composition of this piece, I thought about the first day of creation: Let there be light. I thought a good deal about the beauty of the natural world around us. In Sang to the Sky, and Day Broke, it was my wish to create music which spoke something of these thoughts; I wanted to write music that is, simply, alive, that bristles with the simple joy in, and gratitude for, life. The very lightness is in fact the message.

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