Writer and futurist Arthur C. Clarke famously wrote, in his Third Law, "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." I spent the summer of 2004 living in Capitola, California, within quick walking distance of Monterey Bay. Having completed my doctorate in June, I felt free, for the first time in many years, to compose anything I wanted to compose. Reading one of the volumes of Stephen King's Dark Tower series, I was struck by a phrase he used: "the persistence of magic," to describe the continuing echoes in a place, of monumental events that occurred there. Something about the concepts of endurance, and of magic, spoke to me, and sitting on the beach, looking out across Monterey Bay, I began the initial sketches for The Persistence of Magic. However, I became busy with other projects, and dissatisfied with the way the work was going, and let it sit.
Almost ten years later, Scott Lubaroff approached me to write a work for wind ensemble that would also showcase music technology. I decided I wanted to include live electronics in the new work, capturing the sounds of some of the soloists in the ensemble and processing them live to create new textures and timbres, unachievable with acoustic means alone. In looking through my sketchbooks and old files for inspiration and good ideas, I came across my sketches for this work and realized that it would be a perfect fit. Current music technology is capable of incredible—nearly magical—feats, and returning to music that had lain fallow for almost ten years reminded me of the events depicted in the novel that inspired the title.
Many elements of the newly completed work are composed to play with the ideas of persistence, and of working magic. Structured as a concerto grosso in three continuous movements, the work sets a small group of soloists, augmented with technological magic, against the full ensemble. Musical fragments recur throughout the work, beginning with the motives introduced in the initial movement, "Incantation." The second movement, "Drawing the Circle," is a musical setting of a ritual, magical procedure, developing momentum and power. Finally, the third movement deals with the importance of persistence, and the final triumphs that it brings.