Assembly. Coming together. Putting together. All present and accounted for. People, tools, techniques. Disparate parts made one, constructed. E pluribus unum? Emended, redacted, polished, refined. The act of construction and/or deconstruction. What is the purpose of the finished product? Is there a finished product?
*Some Assembly Required. is a compendium of techniques and concepts that have figured prominently in much of my recent music; including ideas of craft, process, organization, economy of materials, and how those materials change over time. The work is in five large sections (Introduction, Bits & Pieces, Towering Structures, Break Down, and Loose Ends) during which tiny, seemingly innocuous motives take on important structural roles. A three note motive that first appears in Bits & Pieces may be initially nervous and active, only to be transformed into an heroic clarion call and a soaring, broad-beamed string melody in subsequent sections. An eruptive, ascending brass statement from the Introduction later becomes a descending figure without losing any of its impact as a brash interruption to the flow of the music.
Despite this fussy, symphonic working-out of materials, the piece retains its strong identity as an “opener.” Brass and percussion dominate the outer sections, while the more lyrical inner passages are given over to strings and woodwinds. The piece builds to a misleading conclusion in G major; although the final measures may best be described as a disassembly of previous materials.
*Some Assembly Required. was commissioned by Dr. Jacob Harrison for the Iowa State University Symphony Orchestra. I began sketching in the fall of 2009 and finished in September the following year. A great deal of the music was composed in full score from the very outset, breaking from my usual routine of sketching first in piano score and orchestrating only after a reduced version is complete.
Support for the commission of *Some Assembly Required. came from the Department of Music at Iowa State University, as well as the Alvin Edgar Fund for the Performing Arts, part of the Iowa State University Foundation. I am extraordinarily grateful to Jacob for his faith in me and in the work, and to the orchestra for their efforts in bringing it to life.
This recording was made at the ISU Symphony Orchestra’s concert on November 7, 2010 in the Martha-Ellen Tye Recital Hall on the campus of Iowa State University in Ames.