It seems I am always making memorials, or trying to process tragedy through my writing. Falling Dream (2001) is a musical fantasy on the devastating film I saw of a couple leaping hand in hand from one of the burning towers of 9/11; Clarinet Concerto (2008) was written after seeing a documentary on mourning families at the grave sites of the recently fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In the case of How Wild the Sea, I was compelled by news footage of an elderly Japanese man sitting helpless on the rooftop of his house as it is carried away by the powerful tsunami tide of 2011. His wife had been swept under, minutes before. I was reminded of the earthquake of 1995 that destroyed much of Kobe, a city I visited in 1997 for the Japanese premiere of my Marimba Concerto. The efficiency and speed at which the city had been rebuilt was remarkable.
The solo string quartet opens the work with a four-voiced texture of rising arpeggios and falling scales. The orchestra quickly washes over the quartet like a sonic wave, from which the quartet emerges, only to be engulfed once again. For the most part, the quartet acts as a protagonist in this movement, the orchestra as the force of nature.
The second movement (Saisei = “rebirth” in Japanese) recalls the toccata-like final section of my trio And Legions Will Rise, a work premiered in Kobe in 2003. For me, this music has always evoked resiliency, courage, the summoning of fortitude. The oppositional dichotomy between solo quartet and orchestra has dissolved in this final movement, and the two often cooperate in melodic and rhythmic counterpoint, spinning forth with neo-Baroque energy.
How Wild the Sea is dedicated in warm friendship to the Miró Quartet. It was commissioned by Texas Performing Arts at The University of Texas, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra Society, City Music Cleveland Chamber Orchestra, ProMusica Chamber Orchestra of Columbus and the Naples Philharmonic. Additional support was provided to Texas Performing Arts by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The premier took place on December 4, 2013 with the Miró Quartet and The University of Texas Symphony Orchestra led by Gerhardt Zimmerman.
−Kevin Puts ©2014