ensemble chamber orchestra (1.1.1.bcl.1-126.96.36.199-pft-perc-188.8.131.52)
duration 13 minutes
written fall 2008
written for LA Philharmonic
premièred May 12, 2009, Los Angeles, CA
published by Andres & Sons Bakery
The nightjar (also called a nighthawk or goatsucker) is an elusive bird. It sleeps on the ground, camouflaged, during the day, and wakes up at dusk to catch insects in its abnormally large mouth. Nightjars can barely walk or perch, but are graceful fliers.
They are small, but ugly enough to have a frightening quality. They wear frightened expressions themselves, with their bulging eyes and gaping maw.
My piece, Nightjar, begins with a chorus of nocturnal noises. I can remember, during my first summer growing up in Connecticut, at first being terrified and later comforted by startlingly loud chirpings and sawings of the insects and animals that came out at dusk. They formed highly rhythmic yet unpredictable patterns, moving at different tempi simultaneously. The musical language of my piece grows from that zoological counterpoint.
Nightjar is divided into three equally-proportioned sections; in the first, the rhythmic cells accelerate, whipping themselves up into quite an agile frenzy. The second section divides the ensemble into groups, which constantly interrupt, comment on, and betray each other; the third settles down into regular pulsations and gentler harmonies.