Strong Arm

I’ve recently been obsessed with music that creates a long line across an entire piece—the opening material carrying the music through to the final note. This technique is a very old one: think Brahms’s themes-and-variations, or 16th century motets. But the minimalist music of the 1960s and 70s follows a similar path, its shifting sands slowly leading you to point B relatively unawares. I wanted to make a piece that reuses the opening music over and over, spinning out new material as it goes, arriving at different, yet somehow related music at the end.

The lilting woodwinds combined with stratospheric string notes that open Strong Arm present the main threads of the piece. In counterpoint to these elements are big brass chords and short string motives that move quickly from soft to loud—first appearing as sporadic interruptions, then by about two-thirds through overwhelming all else. At its zenith, the texture explodes, each of these elements fractured and flung scattered across the slow dissolution of the piece. Strong Arm was commissioned by the NYU Symphony Orchestra and lasts about seven minutes.

NYU Symphony Orchestra, Eduardo Leandro, conductor

instrumentation orchestra
premiere May 8, 2017, NYU Frederick Loewe Theatre, NY, NY
written February – March 2017
duration 7′

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