Program Note for The Drift of Things (2009)
The Drift of Things was written for pianist Vicky Chow (Bang on a Can) during the winter of 2008-2009 in Hillsdale, MI and was premiered in New York in May, 2009. That first year in Hillsdale was a difficult one. As much as I was enjoying my new job and teaching college students, I had a very hard transition leaving my home in New York City and moving to a small, rural town like Hillsdale. When Vicky approached me about writing a piece for her, I felt this was a great opportunity to try to capture some of the difficulties and anxieties I had as I was adjusting to my new life.
I was introduced to Miles Davis’ album Bitches Brew around the same time as my move to Hillsdale and was impressed by the improvisatory nature and raw energy of the music. At that time, I was also attracted to the paintings of Jackson Pollack for many of the same reasons. I wanted to write a work that would be similarly raw, and strove to create a piece that was more spontaneous. This required me to composer something that was not as formally planned out or motivically controlled. For example, there are many passages in which the rhythm, direction, and range of a gesture are given, but not specific notes. However, I still wanted to try to create balance structurally. To achieve this, I calculated the climax to happen at the Golden Section of the work by writing the ending first, counting the number of eighth-notes used, then figuring out how many eighth-note beats I would need in the piece to make it work. The title comes from an excerpt from Robert Frost’s poem “Reluctance”, which I felt expressed my frame of mind at the time of composing this work:
Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season?
Excerpt from “Reluctance,” from the book THE POETRY OF ROBERT FROST edited by Edward Connery Lathem.
Copyright © 1934, 1969 by Henry Holt and Company, copyright © 1962 by Robert Frost . Reprinted by permission of Henry Holt and Company, LLC. All rights reserved.
The Drift of Things score