Bb Clarinet, Violin, Viola, Cello
Interesting Times was composed in June 2020 for the Rapido! Composition Contest. The stated contest guidelines refer to the “extraordinary time” brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, calling for the piece to “express the impact this has had on you and/or reflect on the different range of human emotions that have been experienced worldwide.” Efforts across the country and around the globe to handle the crisis have been complicated by a variety of things, including outrageous political behavior, economic desperation, and the ever-present tensions around racism, human rights, terrorism, and natural disasters. Beneath this daily buzz is the chronic strain of isolation, social disruption, and fearful uncertainty. That ancient curse, “May you live in interesting times,” is coming true—yet there is hope.
This piece is “interested” in the contour of the so-called “Bach motive,” used by J. S. Bach to spell his name musically. After an initial declamation, the motive becomes the ubiquitous topic of dialogue ranging from reckless energy to shocked dismay, ponderous tension, and lamentation. Behind the scenes, though, is a Lutheran chorale tune from Bach’s familiar cantata, “Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme,” which subtly guides the opening section and emerges abruptly to bring the work to a hopeful, peaceful, lingering close.