for octet

commissioned by Ursa Ensemble
duration: 17 minutes
instrumentation: oboe, clarinet, horn, piano, violin, viola, cello, double bass
Premiered November 13, 2015 at Dankhaus – Chicago, IL

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Program Notes:

I knew I wanted to write a loud piece – the kind that makes you realize that an octet isn’t just an instrumental genre, but eight different people who are each capable of making a lot of noise. With RUCKUS, I wasn’t only interested in loudness as an audible parameter, but one of form and concept as well. A simple way to musically amplify an idea is to repeat it, while another is to juxtapose it with its opposite. RUCKUS does both – its noise is multiplanar. The first movement – “Brittle, not breaking” – is composed of a kind of heightened rhetoric, bordering on hysteria, with huge shifts of volume and mood. “Warm, like a record” emerges from the chaotic noise of “Brittle” with an extended, lyrical horn solo that slowly incorporates the rest of the ensemble. The final movement is amplification through repetition, as a simple phrase is repeated in different guises throughout the entire movement, building in volume and density with each added layer. In the end, I wanted this piece to reflect my experience working with Ursa Ensemble: fun, loud, and full of energy. More simply, to quote the great (fictional) musician Nigel Tufnel: “This one goes to eleven.”