Caution Ahead - Guard Rail Out

Composed:  2012
Commission: Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and Supported by the National Endowment for the Arts
Premiere:  May 31, 2012, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Arild Remmereit, conductor
Duration:  7 minutes
Instrumentation: 2 (2nd dbl.picc) 2 2 (2nd dbl Bscl) 2; 4 2 3 1  timp. 2 perc. harp strings


When I read James Gleick’s 1987 book called "Chaos: Making a New Science," it immediately inspired ideas for creating a musical form.  In his book, Gleick describes computer cross-section analysis of the motion of water through a pipe or of wind currents in a wind-tunnel.  These analyses show the predominantly predictable nature of the molecules’ relationship to each other in the water or the wind.  But they also show that sometimes there are chaotic moments when the molecules mix up in unpredictable ways.

In Caution Ahead – Guard Rail Out, three musical motives behave like the molecules in Gleick’s description. The character and motion of each musical motive is predictable and understandable most of the time.  Each of the three motives is defined by an instrumental group – brass, strings, or woodwinds – though eventually the instruments mix up a little and steal from each other’s motives. These musical motives usually relate to each other fairly predictably.   But like the wind tunnel analysis, there are chaotic moments when the motives get all mixed up and are completely unpredictably.