Molly Morkowski, piano
13 August 1998
Harris Concert Hall
When I was in my early twenties, I took a three-month hike across France and Spain. Passing through this environment, slowly, I was often awed by the monumentality of empty landscape. Although I was a part of it, tiny, in motion, it was untouched by my moving, unmoved by my exertions; the landscape existed around me, doing what it would do regardless, watching me experiencing it. Hours passed, the sun would move in the sky, I would move forward, the land remained. Thomas Wolfe wrote, in a passage I set in Evening Prayer, a 1995 work for soprano and ensemble that “we are living, hoping, fearing, loving, dying in the darkness while the great stars shine upon us as they have shone on all men, dead and living, on this earth.”
Starting with that work, I wanted to somehow illustrate this idea in music, creating pieces that placed a soloist within an instrumental environment: one that freely moved through the entirety of pitch space, was rhythmically active, harmonically rich, and suffused with a present, though not marked beat. Sometimes, as in the conclusion of this piece, I created an entire environment from a melody, other times, I developed my environment more freely.
Slow Movement for cello and piano began its life as a three-movement Sonata composed in the late summer and early fall of 1997. I began with a freely invented and enormously rangy hymn and created an environment built on it and a memory of it. The work begins by pulling an earthy, lyrical melody from the air and ends with that same hymn, unadorned, sounding in a resonant cosmos. It was revised, and its middle movement was discarded in 2008.