Three Scenes from Calder (2010)


I. Three Up, Three Down – 1.5 minutes
II. Big Sail – 1.5 minutes
III. The Flamingo – 1.5 minutes

For Flute, Clarinet, Cello, and Piano
Duration: 4.5 minutes

This piece was written for an event called the “Rapido” competition. It’s goal is to see how much music and at what quality can be written in a short amount of time. The composers are given 14 days from the moment they are told the subject matter and instrumentation of their piece to write, complete, and mail a finished score. The subject matter of this particular competition were three works of the artist and sculptor, Alexander Calder.

The first sculpture is titled Three Up, Three Down. It appears in Atlanta, Georgia. I based my piece imagining the wind blowing through the three pieces facing up and the three pieces facing down, and the different sounds that would be made. As the chimes begin to sound louder, crashing into each other, it builds until the middle of the piece when the wind falls silent. But the wind returns, leaving everything jangling into each other in a cacophony of sound that lasts through the end of the piece.

The second sculpture is titled The Big Sail. It appears in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I imagined the limited capability of a giant metal sail in the middle of the ocean. I depicted a doldrum effect, where nothing moves. The sound merely sits incredibly calmly. This movement was heavily influenced by the music of Toru Takemitsu.

The third sculpture is titled The Flamingo. It appears in Chicago, Illinois. This movement depicts the huge flamingo stomping through the financial district of Chicago, leaving havoc and destruction in its wake. There is a break for a moment when the flamingo, because it is a bird, attempts to flap its wings and fly away. However, because the bird is so large and heavy, it barely gets off the ground before it lands again and continues its stomp through the city of Chicago.

This piece was tied together almost as a theme and variations. The theme is introduced in the first two measures of “Three Up, Three Down.” The pattern is
<0,11,2,10,9,8,1>. This motive is present through all three movements in different forms throughout the piece, being transformed when each new sculpture is viewed.