Prismaticism / Chamber Ensemble Works (Unusual) / Concert Music


Prismaticism, 1999-2001 (5′)

for flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, marimba, and celesta

When I was in college, I underwent a dramatic rethinking of my approach to composition. Having dabbled in serialism and so-called “complexity” in high school and into my first year at Williams, I found that my music was stuck in a rut of trying to do things that I didn’t really want it to do. In the course of writing one piece, I decided to discard all the extraneous material that made the piece look cool, and to emphasize and develop the elements that actually sounded good. Having done so, I found myself unable to write for a long time, until the death of Alfred Schnittke, which drove me to the piano to write a memorial work. Despite having found my voice again, I still didn’t know exactly what I was supposed to be doing; there was music that I wanted to write, but there was something missing from my understanding of what, exactly, that music sounded like. So I decided to take a truly indulgent approach, picking an ensemble that couldn’t help sounding really good — flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, marimba, and celesta — and the resulting piece was Prismaticism. It’s really an odd little piece, sounding very little like anything else in my catalogue, but I still find it charming, like a weird old toy. I wrote a second movement for which there’s no extant recording, a movement that sounds a bit like Michael Torke’s music, and I also started writing a third. But all that remains of this self-indulgent and sweet little project is the movement that’s up here now.