A Composer's Notepad ::

I Sang to the Sky and Day Broke, Orchestral Winds, Percussion & Harp

The title is a line from a poem I wrote, in the dead of winter, years ago in Buffalo, New York. When Dr Andrew Levin invited me to write the piece for the CUSO, and I started writing the first sketches, this line came to mind, and I knew it for the title. Musically, I wrote the piece the way I wrote it partly because Andrew spoke so warmly of his wind players; and partly because I am a clarinetist myself, and I wrote the kind of piece which I felt I should enjoy playing, and which would be a good challenge to put together. To speak on just a few musical details: When I was told I could use three percussionists, I knew I could keep them busy; Scott Deveaux of Charlottesville, Virginia taught me to love the spirit of African drumming, and I find different applications for what I learned, in different pieces. I seized on the chance to include harp in the ensemble. I suppose I have long wanted to write two clarinets playing a minor second; timbrally, it is one of the most consonant of dissonances, simply a delicious sound.

Andrew told me he wanted a bright concert-opener, and that suited me perfectly. Maybe some other time I will write a long, brooding piece on the thornier issues of life; but just at the moment there are plenty of other composers ready to take up that task. I pursue my musical work very much with the thought that there should be more bright music, more exhilirating music, more delightful music, in the world. My music is written with specific things in mind. I think a lot about the first day of creation: Let there be light. I think a good deal about the beauty of the natural world around us, and how mistaken we are to separate ourselves so radically from the natural world, by smothering ourselves in cities and urban sprawl. In composing I Sang to the Sky, and Day Broke, it was my wish to create music which spoke something of these thoughts, but not in any angry way. My ears have heard more than enough angry music, over the years. I wanted to write music that is, simply, alive, that bristles with the simple joy in, and gratitude for, life. As long as it is well made, light music need never apologize for itself; the very lightness is in fact the message.

Karl Henning
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