The Elements of Elements, 2010 (10′)
for violin, cello, and double bass
The Elements of Elements is a work for violin, cello, and piano, written as a response to bassist Gaelen McCormick’s interest in the classical Elements of Fire, Water, Air, and Earth. The Elements are defined by pairs of opposite attributes, either hot or cold and either wet or dry. I initially thought of this piece as a journey through the four elements, using those attributes in their musical meanings (such as a “dry” sound) to define each place in the form, but that version of the musical story felt too literal and too circumscribed by the given descriptions. More interesting was the idea of these attributes — the “elements of elements” themselves — moving in multiple directions, having different conversations and interactions with one another, and reconstituting in forms that move far beyond the musical limitations inherited from the four classical Elements. In addition, when thinking about classicism, I could not help but have a certain sense of antiquity and “the ancient” in my mind while writing this work; the materials that I chose reflect this interest, with chant-like rhythms and contours informing the motives and melodies. The Elements of Elements was commissioned by and written for Gaelen McCormick and Gibbs & Main, and is dedicated to Samuel James Bessey, whose father grew up in Rochester (where this piece was premiered), and whose friendship is an elemental part of my life.