I have always admired the dark and reedy quality of Mozart's K 388, The Serenade in C minor, written in July of 1782, which the composer himself considered his best work (a remarkable observation, considering the string quartet, K. 387 from December of the same year with its spectacular fugal/sonata finale would be hard to beat). In addition the K 388 is a stark contrast to the earthy and lighthearted Abduction from the Seraglio, which was completed the previous May.
More precisely, I was struck with the strange oboe doubling at the opening of the work that sets the abrasive tone and the remarkable buildup of sound that belies its small complement of four pairs of winds (oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon). Naturally, it took years for me to gather the necesary moxie to even use this same instrumentation in a piece; however, the sudden release from teaching duties at my university provided me with the necessary solace to make the piece.
The title, Octet-Windstorm represents an obvious sound picture of swirling freedom, out of the control of man: this title proved to be more than prophetic in its choice. While I imagined an extremely serious and almost menacing piece, what emerged was something that is lighthearted without being light. I don't know how often I have told my compositon students in the past that a new piece begins to take on a life of its own practically at inception, and that it creates its own inevitability upon completion. In the maturation of a piece of music, the composer becomes more and more external to it, much like biological conception, which merely sets a genetic matrix in motion. It really is not until the child is born that its parents may exert their influence anew. As much Ias I believed these things, pieces such as Octet-Windstorm continue to catch my creativity off guard.
Another factor is the tonal world of this or any piece created in the 21st century. Long ago I decided to use familiar materials and combine them in an unfamiliar way, often borrowing
structural devices from the other arts, particularly film. Yet, I still retain a certain self
consciousness about using blatant tonality, an unfortunate remnant from classical academic
education on the American East Coast. These disturbing doubts are a little like recurring fevers of a kind of musical malaria, resident in the host long after the initial infection. Those who read these notes might wonder why, after so long in the post modern camp, would I harbor any doubts. In this case it is the 2004 reissue on a commercial CD of my Concerto `Dies Irae' from 1982 which really liberated me from traditional musical structure. Even the sound of this new piece suggests the sunny optimism of the older work, while not making any thematic reference.
One final observation: music which summons up precise visual events, like the storm in Beethoven's Pastorale Symphony or the fall of the guillotine in Berlioz's Sinfonie Fantastique seem to fly in the face of the patent abstraction that becomes musical structure. Maybe it is this dichotomy that tempts most composers to incorporate these elements in some pieces.
P.R. Summer, 2004.