Play the last minute of Earth, the first movement of Ocean.
Play the first minute-and-of-half of Root, the second movement of Ocean.
Play the first two minutes of Serpent, the third movement of Ocean.
All of these recordings are from a live performance by Marlene Eberhart, flute/piccolo/alto flute; Chris Grymes, clarinet/bass clarinet; Jeff Howard, violin; Pablo Mahave, cello; Emma Counihan, percussion; Lourdes Diaz, piano; David Heuser, conductor.
ComTemChaMu, John Beall, cond., West Virginia Univeristy, Morgantown, WV
Pat Brumbaugh, cond., Imagine '94 New Music Festival, University of
Memphis, Memphis, TN (March 1994)
David Heuser, cond., Indiana University, Bloomington, IN (October
Percussion Required: marimba, vibraphone, four tomtoms, snare drum, bass drum, two
tam-tams (one large, one small), triangle, bell tree and bamboo wind chimes. A bow is also
Ocean is the great serpent, biting its tail. In some primitive mythologies it
surrounds the world; it is also the cosmic serpent which supports the Earth in the form of the
waters of the abyss. Although this piece is not programmatic, it is the cosmic serpent (and not the
Sea) which was the focus of my thinking while writing it. There is a progression, a journey,
through the three movements - from the shore to the edge of the world - which is the outward
counterpart for a complementary inward journey.
The first movement begins on terra firma, Earth. This movement is really a scherzo and should
be played at a breakneck speed. Ideas are initially presented in pairs which are then repeated
(A-B-A-B-C-D-C-D). After almost two minutes, longer development begins to take place. The
rest of the piece can be divided into three parts. The first part is marked by a high ostinato in the
marimba and piano. This section ends with the only prolonged ritard in the whole movement.
The second part begins simply but explodes into chaotic, soloistic music (this is a foreshadowing
of the third movement). This part ends with a unison E and moves onto the coda, which is a
reiteration of material from the beginning presented in a new light.
The second movement is called Root. In Norse mythology, the greatest of all trees is Yggdrasil,
the world ash. Its limbs spread over the world and above heaven; its roots penetrate the abyss,
and there the cosmic serpent gnaws on them. This movement is about heaviness and darkness
and secret things. The flutist plays alto flute, the clarinetist, bass clarinet and the violin's lowest
string is tuned down a step. Formally this movement is framed by an introduction and a coda
which feature the alto flute. After the introduction, the main body of the piece can be divided into
two parts. The longer first part is an A-B-A' form which contains little development and much
pedal F. The second part is a bit faster and much more active. Here again, as in the first
movement, there is an emphasis on soloistic playing. The movement's coda fades into
In the third movement, we reach the Serpent. This is really all about chaos and fear. When
writing this, I imagined falling over the edge of the world into the maw of this beast. Pitch
material for the entire movement is taken from an interval pattern found in the chaotic section of
the first movement. The movement begins with a crashing piano solo. After this the body of the
work is an A-B-A'-B'-A" form. The A music is soloistic, frantic, chaotic and loud. The B music
is calm (or calmer), unfolding slowly. The piece ends with a final shout.
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