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Against the gusts of blank repose, a threshold that persists
Symphony orchestra: piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, clarinet in Eb, clarinet in A, bass clarinet in Bb, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns in F, piccolo trumpet in A, 2 trumpets in C, 2 tenor trombones, bass trombone, tuba, timpani, 3 percussion (snare drum, low bongo drum, 4 tom-toms, bass drum, kick drum, suspended cymbal, large tam-tam, triangle, 4 woodblocks, police whistle, vibraslap, ratchet, chimes, xylophone, glockenspiel, vibraphone), piano, harp, strings.
To the memory of my son, Gabriel Paul Klein (1991-2015)
August 2015 - September 2016; transcribed for orchestra June 2018
Azusa Pacific University Symphony Orchestra; Christopher Russell, conductor
UNT Symphony Orchestra; Clay Couturiaux, conductor
Against the gusts of blank repose, a threshold that persists is dedicated to the memory of my son, Gabriel Paul Klein, who took his life in September 2015 at the age of 23. The work’s title is derived from two lines in Alice Fulton’s poem “Silencer,” from the collection Powers of Congress (1990)—a poem that itself deals with the subject of suicide—and is an allusion to the persistent struggle with that boundary between life and death (“blank repose”).
The work is characterized by sharp juxtapositions of contrasting—often conflicting—musical elements, including sections of restless energy, obsessive ostinato figures, and intrusive interjections, occasionally relieved by stretches of placid, suspended music. The disjunct, fragmentary structure that results, combined with the inherently static, non-developmental nature of the material itself, is intended to subvert the typical linear narrative. An important unifying element of the work is the pitch cell G-A-Bb-E, which is the basis of a repeating interval sequence used to generate the symmetrical, non-octave-repeating scale that is used pervasively throughout the work. This scale is most clearly presented in the ascending quasi-ostinato bass line that first occurs after the slow introductory section. Prime numbers and rhythmic patterns based on Morse Code are also used as unifying structural elements.
Against the gusts of blank repose, a threshold that persists, originally composed for wind orchestra, was completed in September 2016. The work was revised and transcribed for orchestra in June 2018, and first performed on 27 February 2019 by the University of North Texas Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Clay Couturiaux.