Baljinder Sekhon, Composer

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Listening to Scope

Scope - Wind Ensemble (2006)
12 min.


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February 20, 2008
Eastman Wind Ensemble
Mark Scatterday, Conductor
Eastman Theater
Eastman School of Music
Rochester, NY

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Program Notes:

Scope was composed in 2005/2006 and is my first piece which utilizes my ongoing interest in large scale structure and slowly unfolding gestures which germinate from a simple musical idea. This piece presents a symmetrical form with its two halves separated by a one-minute percussion solo and there are symmetrical qualities within each of these halves. Pitch and dynamic are two of the elements which mask the symmetrical structure by developing over the course of the entire piece. Scope begins with a tutti E-flat, and as the piece progresses new pitches are gradually added through a "wedge-row," that is, the added pitches alternate from a half-step higher to a half-step lower than the original collection until eleven of the twelve pitches are presented (A-natural is omitted). Although the presentation of new pitches does not follow the symmetrical structure of the piece, the wedge-row itself is symmetrical (around E-flat). The dynamic shape of the piece describes a large-scale decrescendo, as the median dynamic of each section is softer than that of the preceding section. A more obvious symmetry in the piece resides in the tempi and durations of the subsections. From the beginning to the midpoint of the piece the tempo accelerates via a series of metric modulations; the second half responds naturally by slowing down to the end. These tempo changes mark each of the ten sections which surround the percussion solo (five on either side), and the symmetry found within the two halves of the piece lies in the relationships of the durations of these five sections to each other. In the first half, the relative durations of the five sections are short-long-longest-long-short, and in the second half the relative durations are long-short-shortest-short-long. The percussion solo at the midpoint of the piece is one minute long, which is about the length of a "long" section in the first half, thus continuing the alternation between sections which are of varied length and those which are 60 seconds long.  The simple material from which the rhythmic and melodic content stems, is based on a short "lullaby" melody and accompaniment that I composed several years ago. The melody and chords attempt to present themselves in their original form throughout the piece but cannot fully do so until the pitches, tempo and dynamics are available. This piece has one objective and that is to find itself at home with the musical material. I imagined standing just inches away from a painting and only being able to see the out-of-focus portion of the object immediately in front of my eyes. I would then back away very slowly until the object eventually becomes clear and focused. The degrees of perceptual change from the "blurry moment" (with respect to the "goal moment") to the focused moment at the end are equally independent as the piece presents many possibilities of the inner world of the original "lullaby." The idea of slowly understanding something and constantly re-imagining what it means until finally it is evident is the basis of Scope. This acts as if the music from my "lullaby" is zoomed-in-on at the beginning of the piece (speaking loud yet unrepresentatively of the whole) and then backed away from over the course of the piece. The essence of Scope is that of coming to grips with a truth and allowing it to exist peacefully. I would like to thank Mark Scatterday for his willingness to program this work and commitment to this performance. For any composer, it is a great honor to receive a performance by the Eastman Wind Ensemble.

-Baljinder Sekhon

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