"the space of a door" (2016) - For Orchestra
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Full Recording (streaming via WGBH Radio's site)
Instrumentation (two versions)
Version A: 2*222*/4321/timp/3perc/hp/strings
Version B: 2*222*/4221/timp/3perc/hp/strings
Commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Andris Nelsons, Music Director
I am often inspired by engaging with old places such as historic churches, cathedrals or concert halls. Despite the silence of their atmosphere, these places can feel full of a collective energy of those who were there before me. The initial creative spark for “the space of a door” came from my first visit to the Providence Athenaeum in December 2015. Upon entering this temple of books, built in 1836, one is welcomed by a grand sight of thousands of books brightly illuminated. I imagined the energy latent in all of the countless stories, the voices of authors and their characters who live in these books, each work a portal to another world. This was my starting point, providing a kind of scaffolding for the piece, which then expanded in other directions as I filtered my musical ideas through the emotions experienced during the months working on it, including a sense of a personal loss from the sudden death one of my closest mentors, composer Steven Stucky, and the daily hurt I have felt from news of the tragic series of world events.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra invited me to compose this work as part of a festival celebrating Johannes Brahms, whose music has been important to me as a composer and performer. My piece pays homage to Brahms by taking inspiration from his Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2, particularly the rising minor third in the horns that opens Symphony No. 2. I begin my piece with the horns playing this interval together in harmony. The interval plays a key role throughout my work, both harmonically and structurally, returning at the end as a descending melodic third in a vastly different emotional context. Emotionally, the piece takes a journey through a series of interconnected worlds punctuated by sections featuring massive, asynchronous textures in the strings, where each player is asked to play individually within the collective, as if a soloist. These sections are set against moments of stillness and fragility. A fast, wildly agitated section lies at the middle of the work.
“the space of a door” was commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and is dedicated to Music Director Andris Nelsons, Anthony Fogg and the members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra with my deepest admiration and gratitude. The title quotes from a line of Samuel Beckett’s poem, “my way is in the sand flowing.”
– Eric Nathan (August, 2016)