In an essay by Joseph Wood Crutch, the noted nature writer who spent much of his career in the desert outside of Tucson, he lamented that nobody visits the Arizona desert during the summer. The summer is when everything happens. The cactus and ocotillo bloom, the reptiles, birds, insects, and mammals are all active. The Sonoran Desert biome is the world’s second largest, outside of the rain forest, and it comes alive during the summer, notably at night. In July, the summer monsoon comes to refresh the parched earth and trigger another round of activity.
The two movements of Couplet For A Desert Summer are reworked improvisations. These pieces are some of my first attempts at using transcribed improvisations as the basis for larger works. The two movements have their own internal logic and structural cohesiveness. They describe the two most dynamic moments of every day in the desert, Dawn and Dusk. I am perfectly fine with the fact that the reference from Peer Gynt appears in the wrong movement. The sunrise in the desert is nice, but the sunsets are spectacular. Sunset is also the beginning, as the desert comes awake at night.
The work is scored for a small chamber orchestra of 1 flute, 2 oboes, 1 clarinet, 2 bassoons, 2 French horns, metal percussion, piano, and strings. The solo winds are featured, as is the piano. The work was first performed in Feb. 1984 by the Phoenix Symphony, Clark Suttle, conducting.