Music, School of




Date of this Version

January 1996


“Passage” , one of those words with several definitions, is used here as “the action or process of passing from one place or condition to another”. The genesis of this piece sprang from a remarkably vivid dream I experienced several years ago, a dream never forgotten, that suggested a powerful concept for a piece but remained on the back burner until planning this work for wind ensemble last summer. Since the structure and content of “Passage” represents a direct, “programmatic” transfer of this dream, I feel it important and useful to describe it, even though some may perceive it as a macabre, or gruesome concept for a piece of music .... for the dream was a vision...of my own death.... .... I saw all of humankind in a slow procession moving towards an impending cliff...and as they arrived at the edge, try as they might they all fell screaming into the void. Those in the middle of this procession with some time left attempted to avoid thinking about the approaching inevitability by indulging in the senses and pretending they would somehow be spared, Others adopted religious thoughts that provided hope for continued existence after the fall...but in the end.. all eventually succumbed to the yawning pit of darkness. Finally, as the group that I was with arrived near the edge, a hymn began to be struck up, sung by those who believed in the Christian god. The hymn, by J.S.Bach, “Christ Lag in Todesbanden” (Christ Lay in the Bonds of Death), grew in intensity, drowning out the dissonance as some tried to retreat from the abyss. Finally the precipice was reached, and, as we fell off the edge, we realized the inevitability of this passage, that all matter in the universe must eventually undergo this “passing from one condition to another”...that it was entirely natural...and therefore good....and that sharing this predestined fate with others, somehow made it easier...then just as the darkness enveloped me...I woke up. “Passage” begins with the nascent “proto-music” of noise, gradually building in pitch delineation and rhythmic precision. A contrapuntal middle section suggests “Maya”, the delusional world of sensation before returning to the inexorable build-up of desperate energy. Near the end , fragments of Bach’s harmonization of the chorale begin to seep into the wildly dissonant texture (perhaps a foolish gambit knowing full well this procedure will draw inevitable comparison with Berg’s Violin Concerto). After a painful climax is achieved, the music quickly dwindles back to the noise element from which the piece originated, some nine minutes earlier, perhaps ready to do it all over again.

Included in

Music Commons