for wind ensemble
Commissioned by Kappa Kappa Psi, National Band Fraternity, and Tau Beta Sigma, National Band Sorority, for the 2013 National Intercollegiate Band.
World premiere on July 23, 2013 with the National Intercollegiate Band, conducted by Anthony Maiello.
When a classified document must be revealed to the public, it is redacted: Sensitive passages of the text are blacked out, to preserve the secrets within. So revelation just leads to more questions, and what is exposed is only that the truth remains hidden. Writ large, this is the essence of clandestine work—its task is both to keep and to uncover secrets. This dual nature, and its inherent conflict, provides the basis for
John Mackey’s (Redacted), a piece that offers hints of covert action and intrigue while holding the full story just out of reach.
Pairs, especially pairs in tension, are important to the course of the work as a whole. Structurally, the piece is not only bipartite in form, but each major section is also divided into halves. Sonically, the composer explores the realms of the extreme, alternating between solitary quiet and jarring noise, ranging from the fastidiously slow to the aggressively quick. The alternation of these elements creates a cognitive dissonance, an emotional context that is simultaneously thrilling and pensive.
The piece opens with an elegiac soliloquy, with two primary motives stated unaccompanied by clarinet and flute, each of which, shrouded in chameleonic disguises, metamorphoses to match its surroundings as the work progresses. As these motives step out of the shadows, they rise in a lush and rapturous unfurling, then dissipate into seduction with a distorted tango—made bizarre by the quirky alternation of 6/8 and 2/4—and a flirtatious melody, presented by alto saxophone and then trumpet.
The second half of the piece is similar in shape to the first, beginning with melodies quietly sneaking through sparse textures of suspended harmonies. The original clarinet melody returns, now stated by flute and accompanied by a tiptoeing ostinato of major sevenths in harp and vibraphone. The tempo spins forward again into a tumultuous squall, and the rhythmic pulse of the tango reemerges—no longer the casual and debonair fling, but now wracked with explosive articulations in tutti clusters. The earlier tune is sounded simultaneously by saxophones and trumpets, and now, caught in the fray, it bears a hair-raising tension. A clarinet cadenza introduces the coda of the work; the attempt to reassert the opening motive is cloaked by the exclamations of the ensemble and subdued by the groaning brass, which swirl threateningly over a mechanistic pulse that hurtles to a cliffhanger ending.
Program note by Jake Wallace
Please credit Jake Wallace when reproducing or excerpting this program note