passachacraglionna for solo strings, string orchestra, piano, and percussion (2008) 

 

Masters thesis: premiered at Tufts University, conducted by Andrew Clark with members of the Boston Modern Orchestra Project.

 

A link between the passacaglia and chaconne has existed for centuries, with the musical forms becoming so intertwined that it has become impractical to discuss one without referencing the other. Both forms are closely associated with the concept of ground-bass variations. This technique features a one-phrase repeated bass pattern (usually between 4-16 measures of music) above which unlimited contrapuntal variation is possible. The music is often organized in a triple meter, with a stress on the second beat. Although not always upheld in compositional practice, the one distinction between the two forms is that a passacaglia cycles through a repeated bass-note pattern, while a chaconne moves through a repeated chord progression.

            This passacaglia/chaconne composition attempts to synthesize concepts of these forms from the past through my own musical choices. I made an early compositional decision to work both a chaconne and a passacaglia into the piece (hence the difficult-to-pronounce combinatorial title!). With two distinct structures, the question arose as to how they would connect, and whether to combine them. I turned to an abstract narrative that follows the thought process of an unspecified subject. What type of information does one usually forget? How does one feel after having forgotten something important? When does one often remember an idea that they are trying too hard to remember? These questions aided in my conception of a musical form where the subject’s mind forms an idea and plays with it in a number of different arrangements and combinations. Having jumbled it about too much, the original idea has been forgotten and the subject becomes upset having failed to remember it. Then, only after calming down and moving on to a new thought process does the original idea reemerge.