Explosions in the Sky (2009) for horn, piano, violin, viola, cello

Explosions in the Sky (2009) 7 min.
for horn, piano, violin, viola, cello
Premiere: April 19, 2009. University of California, Santa Cruz
2009 April in Santa Cruz official selection
2011 Indiana State University CMF Music Now Winner

Performed by
Monika Warchol – horn
Alisa Rose – violin
Kate Smith – viola
Adaiha Macadam-Somer – cello
Hillary Nordwell – piano
Camille Chitwood – percussion

Pacific Rim Festival 2010
UC Santa Cruz
April 22, 2010

Program Notes
This piece takes as its title the name of an instrumental post-rock band from Texas. The instrumentation of this band is very standard (2 guitars, bass, and drums) yet their sound is so captivating. The heavy use of delay, loop, and reverb pedals create layers of overlapping patterns; resulting in a hypnotic wall of sound. It’s this effect that I wanted to achieve in my piece: bringing post-rock into a chamber music setting. Although the actual music (notes) I wrote sound nothing like what the band would have written, I did inherit the basic aesthetics of what they create within their music. There are sections in this piece when the music is very hypnotic and will make you feel like you are floating; if you focus you can latch onto several different pulses simultaneously. I also wanted to pay tribute to Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No.5 in which the harpsichordist breaks free from the ensemble and performs a flamboyantly deviant display of virtuosity in the cadenza.

In my piece the pianist attempts to break free at the outset but is overtaken by the incessant patterns in the strings. Eventually the pianist detaches from the ensemble and performs a cadenza that starts off as a Bachian/Ligeti invention but evolves into a post-romantic technical display of passion. Bach’s revolutionary idea of musicians being independent artistic individuals is reflected in the essential idea behind rock n’ roll: rebellion. Overall in this piece I used two complimentary pitch collections (each with its own theme) that have contrasting colors. Musical explosions and sectional pitch collections create the form but eventually collide at climatic moments. There are golden sections within golden sections throughout and the material is very teleological: you are constantly propelled forward. (I wanted the piece to “rock”.)