When you write a piece for orchestra in three movements, you can differentiate the scoring for each movement in obvious and subtle ways. For example, an obvious differentiation would be having one movement use just the strings, while the rest of the orchestra is tacet. A more subtle example: the second oboe may have a crucial part to play in one movement, but only two notes in another.
One of the challenges I’ve set myself by writing a trilogy of related orchestra pieces, as opposed to a single piece in three movements, is that I don’t have the luxury of some of these subtle distinctions. If each of the pieces is meant to be able to stand on its own, then I can’t have the second oboe play just two notes in one of them. Doing so would annoy both the oboist and the orchestra that has to pay a musician to sit in silence for 99.999% of the piece.
It’s an interesting problem, because the reason I chose to write a trilogy of related pieces as opposed to a single piece in three movements is because I didn’t want any of the three pieces to be beholden to the other two in order to make sense. I had three distinct things I wanted to say. Yet, here I am, worrying about the second oboe part in the second piece because of the way it is used in the first and third pieces.
Not complaining, though. The reason this project is posing this kind of difficulty is because I wanted to try something different. With six weeks to go, and with my sabbatical ending tomorrow, I can honestly say I’m not short of unfamiliar challenges. On the contrary, pretty much every hour of the day has me scratching a part of my head I didn’t know existed. In any case, here’s the way the three pieces are laid out at this point:
Recessional – Disintegration
II. Cool Night
Who’s to say if that’s the way it will be six weeks from now? I sure don’t know.