Free Writing on the Second movement of the yet title-less [Water Suite]
I have begun the first draft of the second movement of this suite. The first movement filled 3:30 mins quite easily, which is encouraging for the desired length of this work as a whole. The second movement stands in stark and deliberate contrast to the fury of the first. Another (less intentional) contrast is the use of a recognizable tonal center.
I don’t think that I gave the stipulation that the entire suite would be derived form  (let us call this “set A”), but if I did, I want to rescind that stipulation. It seems that it would be super arbitrary and not allow for right harmonies for the scenes I want to convey. It may be in my favor though to perhaps allow for harmonies based on some truncation of set A. right now, I think it best to just derive harmonies aurally and let things go organically. The idea of movement by 4ths (melodically) is an intriguing one to me and I’ve already started to use it.
The entire movement needs to sound fresh, cool, and green, like spring time or early summer. Everything is alive and vibrant. The opening is quiet and still, using mostly open 4ths. Through flurries of movement in the oboe, flute and clarinet, we transition into a more active texture of descending diatonic thirds in upper winds. There are now two contrasting ideas: stillness and movement. Both are equally important to my feelings when I am near a quiet stream in the hills (Think Tinkers Creek, OH or Crabtree Falls, NC) The water is moving ceaselessly, but I feel so still and don’t want to disturb anything. It’s all so quiet and tranquil and perfect and I just want to recede into the woods and stay in this vibrant quietness forever. It is at once invigorating and quieting. It gives me respite from the busy, (often) ugly world of people.
How to solve the musical problem of balancing stillness with motion is real point of this exercise, though. Picture a still pond. You can take this all in and it’s wonderful in it’s pristine stillness. There’s a problem though. Nature abhors a static state so this picture we’ve dreamt up is impossibly unnatural. There will doubtless be a light breeze to ripple the surface, or barring that some dragonfly will fly though our picture. But still there is a type of stillness and this is the stillness I want to portray. Open 4ths do this more than adequately. It’s a simple harmonic construction that is consonant between directly neighboring members but dissonant between every other member: simultaneous consonance and dissonance.
Motion is also simple to convey by itself. Florid lines in woodwinds achieve this quite simply, but how does one portray stillness without allowing motion to overpower. One answer short burst of motion. (recall the dragonfly in our picture that flies quickly in and then out of view) but much more than perhaps 30 seconds of this will drive a listener crazy; start and stop and start and stop to the point of motion sickness! This is not an acceptable macro-scale solution. Some marriage of the two can be achieved by slowing the motion down, but then the two are melded rather than simultaneously existing independently of each other. A potentially effective solution may be to create stasis on the high winds and allow alto and tenor voices to create the motion. The ear is drawn toward the soprano voice because of range and the lower voice because of motion. (A tip of the hat to Gunther Schuler and his Contrabassoon Concerto). I think this is the best solution at which I have yet arrived and this is the one that I plan to use most extensively.