Drifts and Currents
ensemble: flute and piano
duration: 16 minutes
written: fall 2017
commissioned by: Noah Cline
premiered: April 14th, 2018; Greensboro, NC
I came to a realize over this past year that a great deal of my inspiration for new pieces have political overtones. It might very well come from the fact that since the age of 7, I began to have an admittedly unhealthy obsession with world events, politics, and cable news. Checking my NPR app for updates and watching the PBS Newshour nightly has become a daily/hourly occurrence.
When Noah Cline asked for a flute sonata, he had a specific request that the piece have something to do with the conservationist Rachel Carson. After reading sections of her book The Sea Around Us, I couldn’t help but think of the title literally while I watched news coverage of migrants fleeing oppressive governments by boats. What could it possibly be like to be completely surrounded by sea; not knowing where you will end up and putting all your faith in the currents of the ocean?
The first movement, Human Flow, begins quiet and spare with the piano playing steady quarter notes on D. Out of a misty texture of tremolos, the flute introduces the main, five note motive that dominates the piece. The music beings to violently churn and launches into an allegro section that pits the flute and piano against each other, each dipping and diving over the other. The second movement, The Sea, begins in the lowest and darkest register of the piano. After a series of solo flute cadenzas which are interrupted by churning chords in the piano, the music arrives at a great moment of crisis. This leads to a huge crash with musical fragments hovering in the air which come together to create something resembling a hymn. This hymn builds with intensity until the music reaches another moment of crisis. The brief final attacca movement, Drift (Coda), brings the main theme from the beginning back in it’s purest form. The music returns back to the quiet, spare, distant music of the opening, leaving the listener back where they began.
Score Samples (click to zoom):