In the early 1980’s, I wrote one concert of original chamber music per year for four years. Sonata – Images from the “Far Field” (Roethke) for violin and piano was written for Chamber Concert No. 1, which took place on October 14, 1981. The concert featured Nancy Livingston and Lenore Lehr, violins, while I played piano and bass. The other works on the program were Echoes From An Urban Glade (1981) for violin and double bass, and Mobiles (1981) for two violins and double bass. Stylistically, the music in this concert is as close to freewheeling Minimalism as I ever got. The music is freely organized in layers, but is much more lyrical and melodic and less textural than the typical Minimalist-inspired music of the period. What interested me about Minimalism was the aligning of the organizational factors texturally to a structural grid. My interest was in doing this WITHOUT strict rhythm.
This work is inspired by Theodore Roethke’s poem The Far Field. Roethke is one of my favorite poets. The association has been heightened by the fact that he spent the last years of his life in Seattle at the University of Washington, which was where I grew up. A painter I knew had grown up next door to Roethke. He said as a child he thought he was a little odd, because he was always pacing around his property deep in thought. But later, he wished he had gone next door and talked to him sometime.
Journey Dream is inspired by the following lines –
I dream of journeys repeatedly:
Of flying like a bat deep into a narrowing tunnel,
Of driving alone, without luggage, out a long peninsula,
The road lined with snow-laden second growth,
A fine dry snow ticking the windshield,
Alternate snow and sleet, no on-coming traffic,
And no lights behind, in the blurred side-mirror,
The road changing from glazed tarface to a rubble of stone,
Ending at last in a hopeless sand-rut,
Where the car stalls,
Churning in a snowdrift
Until the headlights darken.
The second movement is inspired by the following lines –
For to come upon warblers in early May
Was to forget time and death:
How they filled the oriole’s elm, a twittering restless cloud, all one morning,
And I watched and watched till my eyes blurred from the bird shapes. . .
The third movement is inspired by the following lines –
II learned not to fear infinity,
The far field, the windy cliffs of forever,
The dying of time in the white light of tomorrow,
The wheel turning away from itself,
The sprawl of the wave,
The on-coming water.