En círculo (2008) for alto saxophone, clarinet/bass clarinet, horn, trumpet, trombone, double bass, percussion, and piano, 18'
excerpt performed by the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players
Listening to me playing this piece, my sister said, “I hear all sorts of natural sounds, things blowing, shaking, leaves rustling, waves rolling”.
The title En círculo is derived from the verb "encircle", as approaching from the outside, and the phrase "in a circle", as from the inside. The performers are continually trading the same music around and around, rotating it spatially in overlapping and recurring sequences. The piece opens with the pitch G, played as quietly as possible and then passed between all of the instruments, with a long increase/decrease like a primal breath.
My recent approach to harmony has evolved from studying the construction of instruments, especially their tunings. Within a larger group such as this, I try to find overlapping characteristics and gradations of colors shared between performers. In this piece the harmony and tonal centers are primarily related to the double bass tuning (strings G, D, A, and E), especially G. In the percussion, the tom-toms, roto-toms and gongs, as well as the timpani, are tuned to a G-based sonority to complement the sonority of the double bass.
En círculo was commissioned by The San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, and is dedicated to my friend and colleague, David Milnes.