a Musical Palindrome for Wind Ensemble
*Premiered by the Southern Methodist University Meadows Wind Ensemble in October 2019.
Duration: 7m / Grade 5
Celestial Orbits is a giant 7 minute musical palindrome that evokes the movements of large celestial bodies. You can think of it as a brief tour of the solar system, beginning and ending with the sun, as if we ourselves (the listeners) are in one giant highly elliptical orbit around the sun.
I started playing around with palindromes in Chakras, which is chak-full of them (see what I did there?). That project led me to the idea of creating an entire piece that is one giant palindrome. I knew it would be a challenge, and to be quite honest, I wasn't sure at first if I was up to it. After all, there have been only a few musical palindromes ever written, and generally by musical geniuses of far greater stature than I. But as I began meditating on the challenge, ideas started to present themselves.
For one, I would have to think about structure in a different way, unless I wanted internal structures to also be palindromes, and therefore repeatable, which I didn't. (At least, not for this piece.) Instead I decided that a sine wave (being the mathematical graph of something that repeats regularly--such as an orbit) would be my structural model, such that two consecutive peaks of the sine wave represent the beginning and end of the piece, like this...
As you can see, I also carefully chose what key centers I would use. A 7-minute work needs tonal variety, and in a palindrome, the modulations need to work both ways. You can hear the horn section leading the shift into the new key/section each time.
My hope is that in addition to successfully creating a musical palindrome of these proportions, that listeners and performers alike will find the music compelling, fun, and interesting. I also hope the music succeeds in inspiring listeners to imagine the sheer size, magnificence, majesty, and movements of our celestial neighbors, near and far.
**Note: I added a glissando (written out in the trumpets and horns) in the penultimate measure for artistic effect and to give a stronger sense of finality to the piece. I feel the addition of the glissando does not negate the authenticity of the musical palindrome.