"As Above, So Below" (2014) - For Solo Trombone
For Solo Trombone
Commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, Alan Gilbert, Music Director
Dedicated to Joseph Alessi
"As Above, So Below" takes its title from a popular maxim in Hermetic philosophy that in essence refers to the underlying unity between two seemingly separate worlds. My work, conceived as a duet for solo
performer, focuses on a dialogue between two sides of the same instrument. In doing this, for the duration of the piece one of the trombone's tuning slides is completely removed, so that by pressing a valve the player can either project the sound forwards out of the trombone's bell, or backwards from the opened tuning slide. Two distinct characters are thus put into conversation - the full and rich sound projecting towards the audience from the trombone's bell, and a fragile and muted sound coming out of the removed tuning slide at the top of the instrument.
I composed this piece while in residence at the American Academy in Rome, which is situated atop the highest hill in Rome with a view of almost the entire city, and every morning I would go to the roof terrace and look out upon the city below. Since a child I have had dreams in which I was (miraculously) able to fly without any manmade aid, and during one of these early morning sessions on the terrace I similarly imagined being catapulted into the sky and soaring above the city. I imagined the feeling of being cradled by tufts of wind, and tossed about like a leaf.
The piece is structured in three large sections. The first section centers on this fantasy of flight over Rome. The music builds over this section gaining momentum until we find ourselves rocketing through the sky, rising higher and higher until we fall, like Icarus, to the ground below.
In the middle section, I imagine landing into the hauntingly beautiful grove of umbrella pine trees at Villa Pamphili, located in Rome's Gianicolo. I happened upon this grove one afternoon on a walk and was immediately captured by the beauty of these hundreds of trees spaced evenly in rows. All the trees seemed to lean towards a center point, their branches coming together and touching above and I felt enveloped in this magical space. The final section once again returns to the sky.
"As Above, So Below" was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, Alan Gilbert, Music Director, and is dedicated to Principal Trombonist Joseph Alessi.