Toward Nightfall (2011)
Dedicated to John M. Laverty and the Syracuse University Wind Ensemble
Premiered April 27th, 2011 Syracuse University Wind Ensemble, Conducted by Michelle Wofford
(3 Fl, 2 Ob, 3 Cl, Bass Cl, Bsn, C. Bsn, A Sax,T Sax, B Sax,4 FH, 3 Trp, 2 Trb, Bass Trb, Tuba, Pno)
Taking its name from a Charles Simic poem, Toward Nightfall is a dark work. In Simic’s eponymous poem, he reflects on the nature of tragedy, in the Classic sense of the word, in everyday life. This work mines similar territory.
The work itself is built on a single tri-chord, . The pitches themselves are all derived from a single pitch, A. The entire ensemble opens the piece on this “A”, with a brief, violent gesture. After the opening gesture, the oboe introduces the first melodic idea of the piece. This idea is then repeated by a muted trumpet. In the second section the tri-chord  becomes the basis for the background material while a new melody is introduced. This melody is based on the familiar folk tune, Scarborough Fair. This folk-tune has been used by countless musicians, notably by Simon and Garfunkel and Bob Dylan, who adopted it, not once, but twice, for his song Girl from the North Country and Boots of Spanish Leather. In this piece the melody is introduced in parallel 9ths and 7ths in the bassoon, contrabassoon and trumpet. New instruments are added to the parallel melody in the same way an organist would add stops until the entire ensemble becomes a giant organ.
After a climax, we move through a transitional section in which fragments of the first melody are performed. This is interrupted by the introductory material which develops into a violent section with stabbing brass chords, shrieking woodwinds and piercing percussion. As we move through the section we hear fragments of all the material that preceded it. After the second climax, the piece returns to the original A, while the bassoon plays a sad lament based on the original tri-chord . For all it’s violence, the piece quietly fades away, with a single clarinet playing the A that began the piece.
Toward Nightfall was premiered by the Syracuse University Wind Ensemble on April 27th, 2011. The piece is dedicated to Dr. John M. Laverty and the Syracuse University Wind Ensemble with much love and gratitude.