Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra: making great music personal

composer's corner

the themes of Desert Wind

February 06, 2007

Dear readers,
hope all is well. Last time I promised to share with you how the themes for Desert Wind
turned out – and of course by doing that set myself up for the impossible! Can one adequately describe music with words? Never going to happen, I think it’s safe to say … some very smart people before me have opined that if we could say with words what we express with music, there wouldn’t be any need for music and it likely wouldn’t even exist … having said all that, I’ll still give it my best shot.

The majority of the piece is based on two main themes. One of these two themes represents the City of Los Angeles (“City Theme”), the other the Santa Ana winds (“Santa Ana Theme”). The Santa Ana Theme is presented by tremolo strings. It feels restless, leaving things unresolved … the City Theme is regal, majestic, and can first be heard at the very beginning of the piece in a powerful statement by the horns.

In addition to these two melodic themes there are also a number of devices underlining either the city aspect (for instance, the painting of various urban landscapes via grooves) or the presence of the Santa Anas (bowed percussion instruments emulating wind chimes, pitch bending strings evoking trees swaying in the wind, brass swells suggesting sudden gusts of wind).

Very few sections of DesertWind
are exclusively City-related, or deal only with the Santa Anas. In most passages the two aspects interact, with one of them dominant and the other providing color.

There is also occasional additional, connecting material, as in the oboe solo.
But its background is made up of a driving groove (urban) and brass swells (wind).

Next time I’ll tell you about how I see this piece to be a “Concerto for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra”, who the featured soloists will be and how the individual sections will be highlighted.


On a technical note, I had originally planned on using bowed orchestral chimes in a few places. But after talking to principal percussionist Tom Raney, who pointed out spotty sound production and awkward access to the bowable bottom of the tubes, I will use a bowed ride cymbal for these passages instead.

Next up: a meeting with concert master Margaret Batjer in which we will discuss various possibilities for string bowings.

In the meantime, keep the music alive,

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