There are three movements to my new double piano concerto, DOUBLE RAINBOW, premiering in Madison, WI tomorrow night:
In a previous post, I talked about the first movement and its depiction of the formation of water from tiny, atomized particles. In the second movement, I wanted to explore what storms are, since double rainbows most often appear as a result of atmospheric disturbances. I also wanted to start with the orchestra, since the pianos had begun and basically dominated the first movement.
The main technical difference in Disturbances is that instead of focusing on the major second/minor seventh interval, things take a less stable turn with a greater emphasis on the minor second (and its inversion, the major seventh). Even in describing it, you can see my attraction to the little flip that occurs – kind of like a double rainbow, which inverts the order of the colors!
The movement opens with a low, growling D-flat in the bass trombone and bassoons, ascending and blossoming into a chord that is made up of lots of fifths and minor seconds. It is spaced more like a jazz chord (a couple of the musicians here in Madison asked me if I am a jazz composer. I could not have been more flattered!)
The bassoon then has a solo that inverts the intervals into a statement that speaks to the sadness that disturbances cause (and of course I am always interested in the emotional valences as well as the meteorological ones):
The repetition is a simple sequence, with one tiny deviation in the second phrase. The dip down at the end of the triplet is a fourth in the first version, but on the repeat it is a tritone or an augmented fourth. A little half-step intensification. Metaphorically, the whole movement is about what happens when a half-step invades your thinking, your life, your weather.
The first movement rotates around the tonal centers of C and F, and it ends on an F7 chord. The second movement has a huge storm in the middle that is definitely and resolutely in F-sharp minor, another level of half-step relationships. At the very end of the movement, the opening material returns and makes a slow, sliding modulation up to G major, one half-step up from the F-sharp minor storm.
Why G major? Well, for the answer to that, you’ll have to read next about the final movement: Revelation!