In 2005, I composed an orchestral work for the Texas Musical Festival Orchestra called A Screaming Comes Across the Sky, which is the first sentence of Thomas Pynchon’s novel Gravity's Rainbow. The book’s title refers to the parabola made by a rocket or bomb in flight; specifically, Pynchon is referring to the V2 rocket, which the Germans were lobbing at London during World War II. This shape is the central metaphor of the book, signifying many things, including the trajectory of life itself, from birth to death.
At the time, I mapped out some ideas for other possible movements based on the four sections of the book, and I came back to these notes when I decided to re-orchestrate Screaming as the first movement of this work. The title of the second movement, The Past that Makes Demands, is from the second section of the book, and refers to the inevitable cause-and-effect of an action (like launching a rocket or throwing a roulette ball), which then “demands” a certain result in the future. The third movement is In the Zone, which is also the title of the third part of the book. In addition to playing on the idea of being “in the zone,” or “in the groove,” this movement also reflects my impression of this section of the book (I have not re-read it) being frenetic, picking up speed as the story itself turns and begins its descent. The title of the entire work, Absolutely and Forever, comes from the book’s final page: “And it is just here…that the pointed tip of the Rocket, falling nearly a mile per second, absolutely and forever without sound, reaches its last unmeasurable gap…the last delta-t.”
This is not programmatic music, but uses the central ideas of Gravity’s Rainbow as inspiration for various musical elements. In particular, the idea of the parabola which can stand in for rising and falling pitch, or softer and louder dynamics, and so on with many other musical elements. Absolutely and Forever was commissioned by the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music New Music Ensemble under the direction of David Dzubay.
Although I am gratefully, and continually, influenced by all of the teachers I had the privilege to study with at Indiana, I have dedicated the three movements to the three most influential to my compositional development. Movement II is dedicated to Claude Baker, my first composition teacher (even though neither of us would be at Indiana for several more years), and the person most responsible for me coming to IU as a graduate student. Movement III is dedicated to Frederick Fox, the person I most wanted to study with when I arrived at IU – and got to, for two wonderful years. And the first movement is dedicated to Don Freund, who joined the faculty at IU at just the right time for me to spend my last years as a student under his tutelage. I hope this work lives up to the standards they set for me.
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