Like the previous work featured in this score call, Timothy Lee Miller’s concept is religious/spiritual. Take a look at the score, following along with the recording.
Firmly rooted in the American Mavericks tradition, this work fuses hymns with polytonality and misalignment, a la Charles Ives. Take a look at the four hymns in the beginning:
Blessed Be The Name
Eternal Father Strong to Save
On Jordan’s Stormy Banks
Fairest Lord Jesus
The use of polytonality and collision provides this work with a variety of textures, gestures, and moments.
For example, measure 19 has bell-like arpeggios in the guitar juxtaposed with glockenspiel arpeggiation, overlaid with a static harmonic field in the clarinet and violin, and a supply of fifths in the piano. This texture of chaotic clarity is destroyed with the piano’s sforzando in measure 20, but the texture clears up again as the static harmonic field is reinforced (as the sforzando dies off), leaving us with clear piano perfect fifths and a quartal chord in the guitar:
A new texture emerges at measure 26, along with a new tempo marking. It is worth noting that this piece is largely sectional, with most sections delineated by specific increases and decreases in tempo marking.
Here we encounter one of many static textures. It seems that the American Maverick tradition is taken in new directions in this piece; the highs come at a more accelerated pace but last shorter, and the lows take on a clearer, less muddy texture and ambience.
For example, look at measure 56. The use of space and spaciousness is clear, but there are also elements of synchronicity that are rampant. There is almost-perfect homophony up until measure 73, a transition measure that leads us into a run-filled, fleeting flurry of notes. Yet, to keep the texture clear (and I assume also to help the performers), there is still relative homophony.
In contrast, passages such as the runs from measure 192 to 199 give us a sense of flying and diving, intersecting and interweaving counterpoint in a polytonal harmonic field:
Here the materials of the work are spelled out in a complex, but comprehensible, manner. The music is rife with overlaid rhythmic patterns, but the score clearly functions in 4/4, both giving the performers something to hang onto, and also allowing the listener to not be too overwhelmed with sonority.
It is worth noting that in this final section, we are supplied with the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” in the piano:
This is the final work to be analyzed in this call for scores!! Let’s jot down some of the things we’ve learned in this work, as a farewell to both this piece and the project at large.
- A tradition can be followed, but does not have to consume a piece. This work adapts the maverick tradition of Charles Ives by translating it into a more sectional, less gradually/more suddenly textural-changing, and overall more clearly timbred, piece that still retains elements of quotation, collage, juxtaposition, misalignment, and polytonality.
- A good recording is a must if you want to send out your music to places. Even though this recording has a little too much reverb in my opinion, it is one of the reasons this piece “stuck out” to me (besides the quality of the score).
- You can channel your spiritual tradition without making a piece overly religious. This work fuses hymns and divine allusion with sometimes esoteric and sometimes more accessible structures and harmonies, but does not overtly give a sense of religion. This may make the piece have a wider appeal, because everyone comes from their own societal and personal spiritual position (or lack thereof).
It has been great to dig deep into pieces like this. The next major project for this blog is finishing up the Young Composer Score Call analyses. Stay tuned!
In the meantime, feel free to give this post a like, comment, or share. Most importantly, stop reading this and go compose!!!