3333, 4331, Timp, 3 Perc, Hp, Strings
Premiere: March 26th 2014, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Leonard Slatkin
Imaging that girl: elusive, playful, courageous, dancing fiercely, never lacking in introspection and strength. It is through her feminine force we encounter the infamous Brahms Lullaby once more.
Why the Lullaby? This idea for Symphony No.2 is twofold. First, it organically continues my Symphony No.1. No.2 begins with the same music that concluded No.1. Furthermore, the large one-movement form is spun out from one of the simplest musical elements: the rising or falling of two notes of various intervals. The two-note melodic contour at the beginning of the Brahms Lullaby most naturally fit my compositional design. As you know, the Lullaby doesn’t stop there, and that’s where No. 2 enters into uncharted terrain.
Second, feminine forces compelled me. One such force was Elaine Lebonbom and the generous grant she established as one female artist commissioning other female artists. Another force was my mother who sang lullabies so my infant self would stop driving the neighbors crazy. There was a third female force, too, providing a dreamy influence just beyond my consciousness.
I blinked my eye and the first draft of the symphony was finished. When I read it over, the broad range of character transformation bewildered me. At times, the feminine force sings with utmost tenderness. But other times, she can’t stop dancing, as if gravity ceased to exist and all terrestrial boundaries disappeared. This dreamy female becomes a nurturer of calming introspection. But in an instant, she reveals herself to be a tempestuous dancing goddess!
I immediately googled “dancing goddess” and again blinked my eye: there she was – living amongst powerful ancient Gods on the wall of Rongbuk Monastery, the highest monastery in the world (16,340 ft above sea level) at the base of North Mount Everest. The Tibetan Buddhists call her “Dakini” and know her to be elusive, playful, the female embodiment of enlightenment and an accomplished teacher of realities that cannot be grasped intellectually. (much like the musical reality, isn’t it?) At the core of their teaching, a Dakini defies narrow intellectual concepts with a sharp, brilliant wisdom that is uncompromising, honest and tinged with wrath.
So I invite you to meet her, the nurturer, the girl, the dancer and the teacher. (Careful not to blink your eye and miss her swift changes!) I hope that her spirit delights and transforms you the way composing Symphony No.2 has taught me. If so, I’m happy to say that I’ve done my job.