Distances Between Us was commissioned by Kindall NeSmith and Todd Smith in the fall of 2010. The couple requested a piece that reflected the unorthodox nature of their relationship; much of the time they've been "together" has actually been spent "apart" due to graduate school, jobs, and so on. The project had a personal resonance for me, since I too had lived in such a situation on and off over the past several years (for many of the same reasons). I used this together/apart dichotomy as the conceptual basis for the work.
To start, I chose a small pitch collection that contains not only the two fundamental pitches of Kindall and Todd's instruments (E-flat and B-flat, respectively), but also the tones that lie a half-step below each (D and A). This half-step idea became a fundamental aspect of my thematic materials, and greatly influenced my choice of subsequent scales (especially the Lydian mode). The outer boundaries of this collection, A and E-flat, became the tonal arms of the piece, which rotate around C, the pitch equidistant between them. Thus the C axis served as a meeting place where the two instruments could come together. The piece consists of a series of solos and duos with varying amounts of commentary and support from the piano; it culminates in an arching ecstatic melody before drawing to a wistful, contented conclusion.
This recording of the premiere performance was excerpted from Kindall's final Master's recital at the Hartt School in April of 2011.