Describe your inspiration for composing the piece. What is its overall conception?
Into the Darkness comes from my experiences as a jazz musician. When I perform any jazz composition, the music has the potential to be drastically different from one performance to another. In writing this piece, I wanted to create a version of this experience in a chamber ensemble setting.
One significant part of the piece is the use of pitch set improvisation. Each performer is given four pitches (some are the same, some different) and instructed to improvise pointillistically using those pitches. I love this technique because pitch sets can create many different kinds of vertical (harmonic) and horizontal (melodic) textures. Because the application of these pitch sets is improvised, it creates a different assortment of textures and colors for every performance.
What are some of the goals you strove to accomplish?
One of my goals in writing this work was to balance harmonic textures (or a lack thereof). The piece weaves in and out of various tonal structures. Depending on the performers' choices in some of the improvised sections, the music can flow in and out of functional and empirical approaches to harmony.
Another goal I strove to accomplish was to apply a quote from Igor Stravinsky - "The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees oneself." Musical events can be placed on a continuum between improvised and composed materials, with absolute improvisation and composition at either end. I wanted to use this piece to travel to various points on this continuum and explore how different spots on the continuum can simultaneously coexist.
What are some of the challenges you faced?
Finding the balance between written and composed materials was definitely a challenge. I knew I would be writing for the Zenith Saxophone Quartet and that they could play anything I put on the paper. Since I knew the caliber of the musicians I was writing for, I wanted to make sure that I gave these talented and creative individuals a good deal of autonomy while still allowing the piece to reflect my intent as the composer.
What do you hope audiences will take away upon hearing your piece?
I hope that audiences enjoy the differences in each performance of the piece. I also hope that audiences hear the personalities of the performers come through in the improvised sections.