Shades of Memory (2011)
Instrumentation: 3333 / 4331 / timp., 3 perc. / harp / pno.-cel / strings
Duration: 13 minutes
World Premiere: Commissioned and premiered by the Houston Symphony, Hans Graf, conductor, on September 16, 17, and 18, 2011, Houston, TX.
A few months after 9/11, I remember being in New York and riding the subway past the World Trade Center Station and I overheard a woman comment “Thank God we don’t stop there – get me away from this place…” Now ten years out, the memory is still raw, if somewhat darkly muted by time. When I think about that day, what comes to mind are the individuals who lost loved ones and the individuals who sacrificed themselves to help others. My musical starting point for this work was two Gregorian Chants: Dies Irae (Day of Wrath) and Agnus Dei, which ends with the line, “Grant us Peace”. These chants are not literally quoted, but simply used as points of departure for melodic development. The beginning and ending of the piece make use of two sets of Chimes, placed on opposite sides of the stage to sound like antiphonal bells. A solo trombone played from offstage as a lone voice heard from afar, sounds against a cluster of soft strings providing a suspended background. In the middle section of the work, we build a monument. The brass and percussion come to the fore and the Chimes toll forcefully. Parts of the opening section return to complete the arch-like form of this elegiac work, and the Chimes, which played fragments of the Dies Irae at the opening, now play fragments of the Agnus Dei chant.
-- Pierre Jalbert